German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been forced to accept a migrant cap of 200,000, as pressure mounts from within her own party to win back voters from the far-right.
Merkel, who has now spent 12 years in office as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, was told by youth delegates at a CDU convention last week that she had strayed from the party’s conservative roots, allowing the controversial far right-group Alternative for Germany to win its first seats in parliament.
In an attempt to smooth out differences over immigration she has now been forced to change her policy on migration, accepting the cap put forward by her Bavarian conservative sister party, the Christian Social Union.
The CDU and CSU, which together won 33 percent of the national vote, their worst result since 1949, saw voters abandon them at the polls after Merkel allowed 1.3m migrants and refugees into the country in 2015.
Merkel will now attempt to enter coalition talks with the liberal Free Democrats and the Greens, but even accepting an immigration cap may not be enough to land a blow against the backdrop of the AfD being the third largest party in the Bundestag.
The AfD exploded onto the electoral map last month with their eurosceptic and anti-immigration policies, winning 12.6% of the vote and 94 seats in the recent federal election.
Their manifesto, which calls for mosques and minarets to be banned, Muslim calls to prayer to stop and the criminalisation of people who wear veils, has drawn in over a million voters from Merkel’s CDU.
The AfD’s performance was strongest in the east and the south of the Germany, winning over people in lower income backgrounds who felt they had been let down by the traditional parties socially and economically.
Ben Whiteside and Ellie Bailey from the University of Sheffield German Society said: “Merkel’s made some big changes in the last year, the most obvious being the immigration policy, and even those who started out positive have become concerned with the sheer volume of people coming into the country.
“She’s lost support because she hasn’t listened to those concerns, similarly to the situation in England with the Brexit vote. You could argue it’s similar to the rise of UKIP, a fringe party that had some extreme views rising at the time when the situation worldwide changes and people feel less secure.
“The national identity towards conservatism is changing, and whereas in the past any extreme right views were instantly labelled as a Nazi, I think now people are slowly starting to not to do that and forget the past a bit.”