The deadly truck rampage through a Christmas market crowd here marked a new setback for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hopes for political survival at a time when opposition is growing over her open-door policy for migrants.
“This was exactly the kind of terrible event that could seriously affect the German elections” next year, said Michael Wohlgemuth, director of the Berlin office of the political think tank Open Europe.
“Many people will make a connection between Merkel’s refugee policy and the threat of terrorism. But since all the parties in the federal parliament supported her policy, there would only be one party to profit from (Monday’s attack): AfD. One could expect this party to do much better as a consequence.”
AfD is the right-wing Alternative for Germany party, which has picked up support from Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in recent regional parliamentary elections, in part because voters have been drawn to its anti-establishment and anti-immigration message.
For nearly two years, Merkel has faced sharp criticism over her decision to allow nearly 1 million asylum seekers to enter Germany from conflict zones in the Middle East and North Africa. Often they arrive having undergone little in the way of security or background checks.
Germany has seen a few small-scale attacks linked to Islamic extremists and asylum seekers over this time, but nothing on a large scale.
On Monday, however, a Pakistani national who applied for asylum in Germany was detained — and later released — in connection with the truck assault that killed 12 people and injured 48. The suspect denied involvement, and federal prosecutors said Tuesday there wasn’t sufficient evidence tying him to the rampage.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Kim Hjelmgaard