Merkel: We can do this. Seehofer: No, we can’t.

Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer said: We can do this’ – I cannot, with the best will, adopt this phrase as my own. It is a direct contradiction to Angela Merkel. Do you think we will see more tensions between Merkel and Seehofer, how strong is Merkel’s position after series of attacks in Germany? Read few comments.

Thorsten Benner, Director, Global Public Policy Institute

Whether the tensions between the CDU and CSU will escalate further depends mainly on whether there will be further terrorist attacks on German soil (or on whether the refugee numbers go up again). This time around Seehofer’s criticism has been fairly moderate (and others in his party have done the real attack dog job).

It´s also that Seehofer and the CSU (who after all are governing in both Berlin and Munich) will need to come up with a more constructive agenda. “We can’t do this” is not a winning slogan for a party in power – the AfD can adopt this as an opposition party but hardly the CSU. A better one would be “We can do this but we need to do it differently to succeed”. That would also put more pressure on Merkel to better explain the changes in policy that she has already pursued. During last week’s press conference, she pretended that her basic approach has remained consistent over the past year – but the opposite is true: she has shifted to an approach that puts reducing the numbers of refugees and controlling external EU borders squarely at the center. She’d be well advised to explain this better.

Merkel’s position remains relatively solid since her party (while having lost some support in the polls) is fairly steady at about 35% nationally. Her personal approval ratings are still rather high. She has no immediate leadership challenger within her own party. And the Seehofer / CSU approach (playing opposition while governing) has not been rewarded by opinion polls: the CSU has lost ground in Bavaria as well. All other parties except the right-wing AfD find it hard to attack her stance on refugees since their party platforms support the basics of Merkel’s approach. But Merkel’s position is precarious since many of those still willing to give her the benefit of the doubt will reconsider if panic breaks out after a major Bataclan style terror attack on German soil. The attacks Germany has seen thus far are rather small scale. Germany has not yet been tested by a major attack. And one of the Achilles heels of Merkel is the fact that 150.000 of the asylum seekers who have arrived to Germany since last year have not yet been ID-vetted. That feeds into narratives of the state´s loss of control and will become a major problem in case of further attacks.

Eric Langenbacher, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Government , Georgetown University

Well, tensions between Merkel and Seehofer or the CDU and CSU are nothing new. I’m sure they will continue, maybe even get worse.The CSU seems more concerned about the AfD syphoning votes away from the right than the CDU. But, beyond the rhetoric–perhaps a bit understandable given that these last attacks have been in Bavaria–both Merkel and Seehofer are taking concrete measures to address the issues. Seehofer has called for more police and better armor. Merkel’s deal with Erdogan has substantially reduced the flow of refugees/migrants. Actually, I think that the situation in Turkey after the attempted coup is the situation that needs to be monitored. If the deal sticks, Merkel (and Seehofer) will be fine. If the deal falls apart, then who knows what would happen in Germany.

On another (more Machiavellian) note, looking towards the 2017 election, even if the AfD gets 10% of the vote mainly at the expense of the CDU/CSU, Merkel will likely still be able to remain as chancellor in a (reduced) coalition with the SPD.

Florian Hartleb, Political Scientist, Consultant

It is not very likely that CDU and CSU can find a common ground in the topics of immigration, integration and security after the terrorist attacks which mostly have happened in Bavaria.

The attacks infected the Bavarian pride in terms of security and law and order-policy.

The CSU has attacked Merkel’s frame welcome-refugees already since months.

Merkel´s press conference made it once again clear that she doesn’t want to change her course. The CSU most likely will campaign with its programme what Horst Seehofer already indicated before the terrorist attacks.

Another big topic will be the Turkey question. Merkel has not criticized Erdogan openly yet despite the planned Pro-Erdogan demonstrations in Cologne.

It is hardly imagine that CSU factions will promote Merkel’s candidacy for the next elections next autumn. A bit she reminds to Helmut Kohl in the year of 1997. It means at least that Merkel can hardly be the hope for a new political spirit both on the national and European level. Her strategy is most likely a coalition with greens in order to justify her open approach towards the refugees.


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