German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described her party’s failure in Berlin state elections as “bitter,” taking the blame for the loss after criticism over her refugee policy. Merkel made the remarks on Monday after her party, known as Christian Democratic Union (CDU), came in second in Berlin mayoral elections, with only 17 percent of the vote, marking the party’s worst ever results in the capital’s state assembly.
Adopting a conciliatory tone, the German chancellor acknowledged that the poor election outcome was because of her so-called open door policy, which allowed hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers into the country last year.
“If I could, I would turn back time many, many years to better prepare myself, the federal government and all those in positions of responsibility for the situation we were rather unprepared for in the late summer of 2015,” Merkel said. The chancellor said she would consider a change in strategies to alleviate public concerns. However, she reiterated that demands for refusing to give asylum to Muslim refugees are unacceptable.
Almost 1.1 million refugees, most of them fleeing war and violence in the Middle East, arrived in Germany in 2015. Last year, the government sent back 21,000 refugees and repatriated 35,000 others in the first seven months of 2016 over their irregular manner of entry into the country. The move prompted mass rallies for and against the refugee policy in Germany, with a group of demonstrators calling on authorities to welcome asylum seekers and others urging them to seal off German borders.
Merkel, who has been in office for 11 years, is also contemplating a bid for a fourth term as chancellor in the 2017 elections. Her critics say the German government has not made sufficient contribution to efforts for ending the crises in Syria and Iraq, which are among the main causes of the refugee influx into Europe.
Merkel’s approval rating has sunk to a five-year low of 45 percent from 67 percent a year ago. While reports attribute the fall to her refugee policy, such a correlative is unlikely to be a direct one as the German chancellor also enjoys massive support from people in favor of her refugee policies. A string of attacks attributed to refugees, however, may have adversely affected public opinion in Germany to some extent.