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Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her nation to remain calm in the face of terrorism and lashed out at far-right nationalist movements promising a false sense of security, a sign the embattled leader will trumpet stability when she seeks her fourth re-election this year.

“As we pursue our lives and our work, we tell the terrorists: They are murderers full of hatred, but it’s not they who determine how we live and want to live,” Merkel said in a speech to the nation on New Year’s Eve. “We are free, humane, open. Together, we are stronger. Our state is stronger.”[1]

Merkel predicted a fragmented political climate in a year that includes Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president and high-stakes elections in France, the Netherlands and Germany. Trump’s election came less than five months after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. For many, what unites the two landmark events is the growth of populism across much of the West. Those forces come to a head for several European polities in 2017.

The Chancellor’s comments came less than two weeks after a deadly terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. The assailant, a 24-year-old migrant from Tunisia who was under government surveillance,[2] had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, a terrorist network that has destabilized Iraq and Syria and launched several attacks across the globe.[3]

Merkel has been harshly criticized for her handling of the migrant crisis. In response, the Chancellor made an extraordinary U-turn on mass migration last year, a sign she was looking to appease a large swathe of German voters dissatisfied with her chancellorship. For her critics, the change in tone is too little, too late, as Germany took in well over a million migrants last year.[4]

Despite the criticisms levied at Merkel, more than half of Germans trust her to navigate the country out of its political challenges, according to a recent poll conducted by TNS Emnid. A separate Forsa survey administered after the Berlin market attack showed support for Merkel’s Christian Democrat Union reached its highest level since January.

The Chancellor has also warned Germans not to feed into populist propaganda promising a happy future, and criticised far-right parties for undermining the core values of the European Union “or even parliamentary democracy itself.”

Merkel’s comments were directed largely at AfD, a far-right party that has gained representation in ten of Germany’s 16 parliaments since 2013. Latest election polls showed AfD was the country’s third-strongest party, behind Merkel’s CDU-CSU bloc and the Social Democrats, Merkel’s junior coalition partner.[5]

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[1] Rainer Buergin (December 30, 2016). “Merkel Urges Calm Against Terror in Election-Year Stability Bid.” Bloomberg Politics.

[2] Joanna Slater (December 21, 2016). “In aftermath of Berlin Christmas market attack, Germany’s resilience tested.” The Globe and Mail.

[3] Adam Withnall (December 23, 2016). “Berlin attack suspect Anis Amri ‘recorded video pledging allegiance to Isis’.” The Independent.

[4] Nick Gutteridge (November 7, 2016). “’Don’t come here!” Merkel migrant U-turn as Germany orders EU to send back boats to Africa.” Express UK.

[5] Rainer Buergin (December 30, 2016). “Merkel Urges Calm Against Terror in Election-Year Stability Bid.” Bloomberg Politics.

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