German chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking a fourth term in office — and gearing up for what she expects to be her toughest campaign to date.
Speaking at a meeting for her Christian Democratic Union party in Berlin on Sunday, Merkel said that she decided to run to “fight for our values and our way of life.”
Merkel, who has been in office since 2005, saw her poll numbers start to slip in the last year amid criticism that her “open-door” policy for the refugee crisis had left Germany vulnerable to Paris-style terror attacks. She conceded defeat in several traditionally CDU strongholds in the state elections earlier this year, and acknowledged that her position on refugees had contributed to her decrease in support. More than a million people applied for asylum in Germany in 2015.
Merkel is also up against the growing pull of populism. The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) emerged onto the political landscape just three years ago and saw a surge of support in the state elections. The party has capitalized on the refugee crisis, calling for tighter asylum rules and insisting that ‘Islam does not belong in Germany.’
Despite the challenges she faces, Merkel has long held the nickname ‘Mutti’ – the mother of Germany. She is widely seen as a stabilising force in Europe, which has faced economic instability and must now deal with the British exit from the European Union. In 2015, she was named TIME magazine’s person of the year.
Regardless of the shifting landscape and fluctuating approval ratings, a recent poll by German newspaper Bild found that 55 percent of Germans would still vote for her.