Merkel is no longer untouchable. Among its co-religionists there is one who openly doubts that it will be the best candidate to the chancellery among the conservatives for the generals of autumn 2017. The two consecutive electoral defeats of his party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), in two regional elections have highlighted the erosion of what was, for more than a decade, the undisputed leader of his party, Germany and the European Union. His management of the refugee crisis – his most controversial and perhaps most personal decision – is taking a huge political toll on him: a divided party, a hole in the ballot box and the rise of the ultra-right. The end of the Merkel Age begins?
It was on the night of 4-5 September last year that the chancellor agreed, in a long telephone conversation with her Austrian counterpart, Werner Faymann, to keep the borders open and to allow the tens of thousands of blocked refugees in Hungary to travel to Germany. The wave of asylum seekers, mainly Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, surpassed one million people in 2015.