Still reeling from a state election rout which unleashed a party row about her open-door migrant policy, Angela Merkel’s conservatives are bracing for further losses in the Berlin city vote on Sunday.
The chancellor’s decision a year ago to open German borders has hit her popularity and dominated the campaign, boosting support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD)party.
Polls show the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) may be able to drop Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) as coalition partners in the capital’s assembly.
Since the CDU was pushed into third 10 days ago by the AfD in the eastern state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, her conservative CSU allies in Bavaria have blamed Merkel personally and demanded a migrant cap, which she rejects.
And while she has no obvious rival, the losses have raised questions about whether she will even run for a fourth term in 2017.
“Merkel made a mistake letting everyone in. She will pay the price and so will Germany, our children,” said Moritz Daul, 48, who will nonetheless vote CDU. He said Merkel’s days were numbered but she was the best chancellor candidate for now.
Merkel’s problem was very evident at the rally on Wednesday.
Up to 30 hecklers booed, whistled and yelled “Merkel must go”. One, sporting a German eagle on his T-Shirt and the slogan ‘Wir sind das Volk’ (‘We are the People’), said he would vote AfD.
The slogan was coined by East Germans protesters before the end of Communism and has since been adopted by the anti-Muslim PEGIDA group,
The AfD, which has won seats in nine of Germany’s 16 states, has successfully played on immigration fears. Berlin candidate Georg Pazderski has said: “I favor educating these people (immigrants) but not integrating them. We must prepare them for going back.”