Promoting a welcoming culture, Merkel opened the doors of the European Union to refugees. Austria however aims to close the Brenner Pass.
Sometimes a year can seem like a lifetime, as Angela Merkel knows all too well. Back in April 2015, her power appeared untarnished, garnering transversal consensus among German citizens. Indeed, 75% were positive about their chancellor’s performance and planned to vote for the two governing parties again, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Their poll numbers were 41% and 25% respectively, the same as when they won the elections in September 2013. Today, the CDU stands at 30% and the SPD at barely 20%. Meanwhile right-wing populists from the Alternative for Germany party (AfD), believed to be in total disarray just a few months ago, have jumped to 15%. Now only 55% of Germans support Merkel, up from a dip to 49% in November 2015. While the positive view still prevails, a majority of Germans (64%) are convinced that it would be best if Merkel did not stand for reelection in October 2017. While the German leader’s future appears uncertain, her Austrian counterpart has already drawn a line under his. On 6 May, 2016, the country’s Social Democrat chancellor, Werner Faymann, resigned after his party’s disastrous showing in the first round of Austrian presidential elections, in which another right-wing populist group, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), lead with 35% of the vote. Norbert Hofer was then beaten in the second round by the Green’s Alexander van der Bellen but only by a razor- thin margin. The xenophobic Hofer won 49.6% of the vote. Candidates for the Social Democrats and Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) were both handed a humiliating 11% and were excluded from the second round.