Political fallout

Merkel's Enemies Line Up

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany is due to hold elections next fall, and Ms. Merkel’s refugee policy has left her vulnerable to populist criticism.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • A truck deliberately smashed into a Berlin Christmas market on Monday killing 12 people.
    • Police believe the crash was a terror attack.
    • Germany’s populist AfD party, a threat to Ms. Merkel’s ruling conservatives, is making political capital from the attack.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf
Germany Croatia
Angela Merkel is vulnerable to accusations that she has left Germany open to terror attacks. Source: AP

It was the attack that Germany had been bracing itself for.

And it could have far-reaching political implications, particularly for Chancellor Angela Merkel, already fighting off a challenge from right-wing populists.

On Monday night, shortly after 8 p.m., a truck smashed into a crowded Christmas market in the heart of West Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring dozens more.

While the authorities were initially extremely careful not to jump to conclusions about the circumstances leading to the awful carnage, by Tuesday the Berlin police said that they were dealing with a “presumed terror attack,” stating that their investigators were working on the assumption that the truck was intentionally driven into the crowd.

If that is confirmed, it would be the first time that a terror attack has been carried out in the German capital, and on a symbolic and also relatively soft target: the traditional Christmas market, where locals and tourists gather to drink mulled wine amid glittering fairy lights.

The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany was quick to single out who they blamed. Immediately after news of the incident emerged on Monday night, Marcus Pretzell, a member of the European Parliament for the party and partner of AfD leader Frauke Petry, tweeted: “When will the German rule of law strike back? When will this cursed hypocrisy end? These are Merkel’s dead!”

The deputy leader of the Social Democrats, Ralf Stegner, called the comment “unbelievable and disgusting!”

“Instead of respect for the victims, again disgusting political exploitation of this tragedy by the AfD and other right-wing agitators,” he tweeted.

Yet, for all the outrage heaped on the AfD, there is little doubt that the party is likely to profit from an attack in the heart of the German capital.

We hope you enjoyed this free article.

Subscribe today and get full access to market-moving news in Europe's leading economy.