Why the once-durable Merkel may not last much longer

The chancellor’s need to win back far-right voters is hard to square with her previous embrace of open borders

Angela Merkel’s New Year address on German television has acquired all the familiarity of the Queen’s Christmas speech. So much so that one newspaper ran a front page showing the chancellor’s 12 years in shiny-jacket attire under the headline, “Can the Social Democrats put up with another one of these?”

The needling of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), for preparing to support Merkel’s fourth term in office, highlights a more irreverent tone towards “Mutti”, as she restarts stalled talks to hammer out a new coalition.

The chancellor has been attacked by some of her own former supporters for her unwillingness to be more open about the practical implications of absorbing the 2015 wave of refugees, and for allegedly failing to identify warmly enough with the victims of the Christmas terror attack in Berlin in 2016. In other words, she is being treated like any other long-stay politician showing signs of fatigue. On a road trip through Germany I heard grumbles and frustration about a chancellor who only a year ago was hailed as virtually superhuman.

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