By Claire Zillman
December 21, 2016

When German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced her bid for reelection last month, expectations were that she would likely win a fourth term—but that a terrorist attack could alter the odds.

Though a motive is still unknown and the culprit is still at large, it’s assumed that the tragedy that occurred Monday when a truck plowed through a Christmas market in Berlin killing at least 12 people was an act of terrorism. ISIS claimed responsibility for it yesterday.

Shortly after the incident, Merkel’s critics cast it as a result of her liberal immigration policy, with one leading nationalist politician referring to the victims as “Merkel’s dead.” In an unusual step, even Merkel was quick to address reports that a migrant was responsible for the attack. (Initially, German authorities had detained a Pakistani man who’d entered Germany as a refugee, but they released him yesterday on lack of evidence.)

The speed with which the tragedy shifted to an analysis of Merkel’s immigration policy indicates just how precarious her position is and proves that the situation she and her supporters feared is now here. For further proof, the language in her address yesterday dripped with double-meaning as she referred to the possibility that an asylum seeker had carried out the attack. That, she said, “would be extremely hard for us to bear,” and it “would be particularly repugnant for all those Germans, who toil daily to help refugees.”




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