Three of Germany's 16 states held elections on March 13. Together, they have 17 million of Germany's 81.5 million inhabitants. Some 12.7 million people were eligible to vote.
The result is a major setback for Angela Merkel. The Chancellor’s Christian Democrats (CDU) lost support in all three states – the industrial state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, the wine-growing region of Rhineland-Palatinate and the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt – in the first elections that gave voters a chance to react to Merkel's stand on the problem of asylum seekers. The CDU and its coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), took a hit across the board, while the anti-immigration and anti-euro party Alternative fuer Deutschland (Alternative for Germany; AfD) scored a big win. It easily entered all three state legislatures. The party took around a quarter of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt becoming the second biggest party there, and also made strong gains in the other two states, with preliminary results showing it won 12.6 percent of the vote in Rhineland-Palatinate and 15.1 percent in Baden-Wuerttemberg. The strong performance boosts AfD's hopes of entering the national parliament next year.
Germany registered nearly 1.1 million people as asylum-seekers in 2015. The government has moved to tighten asylum rules, but the Chancellor still insists on a Pan-European solution to the migrant crisis, ignoring demands from some conservative allies for a national cap on the number of refugees. The policy on refugees has proven divisive, both among the German public and within Merkel's own Christian Democrat Union (CDU).
This is of national consequence. Germany's next national election is due in late 2017. A poll of German citizens in early February found that 81 percent of the population feel the refugee crisis is «out of control» under Merkel's government, with most people in favor of more restrictive measures towards asylum seekers.
Voter support for Merkel’s government dropped from 57 percent in July 2015 to 38 percent in February 2016 – «the worst estimate during the current government’s term», the pollster concluded.
The poor result on March 13 is likely to generate new tensions. With CDU support falling in the polls, the party may look for a new leader, even though there's no long-term successor or figurehead in sight. Merkel’s capacity to inspire confidence in her welcoming domestic policy among Germans is linked to a successful resolution of the migrants’ problem at the European level. If the current strategy of rapprochement with Turkey and strengthening of the EU external border fails, Merkel may have to leave German politics by the back door next year leaving her own party and coalition partner SPD in a difficult situation.
At present, the EU and Turkey say they have agreed on the broad principles of a plan to ease the migration crisis. Under the plan brokered by Berlin and Ankara, all migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey would be returned.
For each Syrian sent back, a Syrian already in Turkey would be resettled in the EU. Turkey would also get extra funding and progress on EU integration. The German Chancellor gave a strong signal that she supported doubling aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey, as the EU bargained with Ankara to do more to stop migrants and refugees arriving on Greek shores. EU leaders were asked to provide €6bn (£4.6bn) over three years, twice the €3bn offered last November.
The deal is expected to be finalized at the EU meeting on March 17-18.
Some senior EU diplomats and EU leaders were angered by Ms Merkel’s handling of the process, which circumvented and trumped parallel talks led by EU institutions.
At that, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed the surprise Turkish proposal at an emergency summit in Brussels as a potential breakthrough in Europe's politically toxic migration crisis.
Ms Merkel pressed hard for the deal just three days after the Turkish government seized the best-selling opposition newspaper Zaman.
The German Chancellor with her reputation of a leader who really cares about human rights, has not done anything to make this gross violation of freedom of speech be included into the EU-Turkey agenda.
The issue of human rights violations raised by the United Nations is kept out of the EU-Turkey, Germany-Turkey dialogue.
On the very day her party braced for drubbing at key state polls on March 13, the Chancellor’s priority was to exchange views with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on an upcoming special summit between the EU and Turkey to ink the migrants deal under the terms favorable for Ankara.
There is certain background of the Germany-Turkey’s close alliance growing stronger. The German government is well aware of the fact that Turkey is involved in dealing with the Islamic State (IS).
The evidence is ample. It’s enough to remember the report prepared by Columbia University professor David L. Phillips published by Huffington Post in 2014 to hit public spotlight back then.
US intelligence revealed that the Islamic State group made millions of dollars every day from illicit trade in oil thanks to dozens of oil fields in Syria and Iraq that came under its control.
Transportation of IS oil to Turkey and the widespread engagement of Turkish middlemen was already well-known as early as 2014, when the terrorist group gained control over the majority of Syrian oil extraction zones close to the Turkish border.
On August 25, 2015 Turkish newspaper Bugün ran a front-page story showing alleged transfer of weapon and explosives from Turkey to Islamic State through Akcakale border post.
Russia provided evidence to confirm the fact of clandestine collaboration between Turkey and the Islamic State group.
Western countries should exert pressure on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and put an end to the secret relations of Ankara and the militants, otherwise the conflict in Syria may escalate, Deputy Chairman of the Left Party Sahra Wagenknecht said in an interview with German magazine Spiegel.
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The exact relationship between Erdoğan’s government and the IS may be subject to debate, but of some things are certain. Had Turkey established the same kind of absolute blockade on IS-held territories as they did on Kurdish-held parts of Syria, let alone getting as tough on the Islamic State as it does on the Syria-based Kurdish groups (the PKK and YPG), the world would have forgotten about the «caliphate» a long time ago. If it had been the case, the Paris attacks may never have happened.
If Turkey were really engaged in the fight against the IS, the terrorist group would probably collapse in a matter of months. Yet, no Western leader has called on Turkish President Erdoğan or Prime Minister Davutoglu to do this. Certainly not German Chancellor Merkel. She has made Germany and the EU fully dependent on Turkey in handling the most burning issue – the migrants’ policy. She views Turkey as a «strategic ally». As the recent EU summit showed she is likely to head off to share a friendly cup of tea with the Prime Minister of the same government that makes it possible for the IS to continue to exist.
Just think about it, the German government does know well that Turkey collaborates with the IS and does not do anything about it allowing Ankara to blackmail Germany and the EU instead! The Chancellor understands well that the time is wrong for the issue to hit public light as Germany faces the next parliamentary election in 2017. So she does her best to hush it up.