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Despite being recently awarded as the second most powerful human on Earth by Forbes, German chancellor Angela Merkel is looking increasingly vulnerable as her refugee policies turn sour, argues a team of writers for Der Spiegel. The continued influx of refugees to the country’s south-east has placed aid organisations and municipal bodies under unprecedented strain. Meanwhile, political opponents and allies alike are campaigning to see a limit on the number of refugees allowed to enter Germany, a move that would see the end of Merkel’s vision for a borderless Europe.

Der Spiegel’s writers claim that the situation has spiralled into chaos, as resource-starved municipalities struggle to keep up with the ever increasing migrant numbers. Experts expect 10,000 to 12,000 new refugees a day, with virtually no more shelters available anywhere in the country. “The government, in short, has lost control,” the authors claim. “And Germany is in a state of emergency.” Meanwhile, traditional conservative supporters of Merkel’s party, the CDU, are growing increasingly concerned that the new arrivals could give rise to “a parallel society of Muslims in the country.”

All this has had a dramatic on Merkel’s approval rating, with knock-on effects for the CDU. More worryingly, it is the Alternative for Germany (AfD), an extremist right-wing party, that has most benefitted from this shift in the national mood, scoring 8% in a recent opinion poll. Over the summer, Merkel’s position appeared unassailable. Now, commentators speculate, she could face a coup from within her own party. And Merkel herself is well aware of the dangers of her position —

One of Merkel's great strengths is an unerring sense for political reality. [...] Nobody knows better than Germany's chancellor just how precarious the situation in the country has become.

At the heart of the crisis is Merkel’s shaky relationship with Horst Seehofer, head of the CDU’s sister party in Bavaria, the CSU. While Seehofer is strongly opposed to the drastic measures to cut migrant numbers proposed by the AfD, he is nevertheless pushing for a cap on the number of people the country can take in. The situation in Bavaria is, according to the authors, “pre-revolutionary”, with increasing anger in the party about the actions of the federal government. What’s more, it has emerged that nothing was done to support local communities, who as early as February has appealed to the government for assistance with the refugee arrivals.The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees also found itself unprepared for the scale of the crisis, after it was refused permission to hire additional staff for processing asylum applications.

Merkel is also vulnerable internationally. Once called the “Queen of Europe”, today she faces resistance to her refugee policies from many of her EU partners, some of whom are pushing for more fences and a limit to the free movement of people. And she has had to turn to “erstwhile opponents” in Greece and Turkey to manage the flow of refugees. The stakes are high: the success of Merkel’s international policy will determine not only her own domestic position, but also the future of the the EU itself —

Merkel believes it is impossible for Germany to seal off its borders. For her, the erection of a fence would not just be ineffectual, but would also represent the end of the European ideal. Having grown up in communist East Germany, she is from a country that cut itself off with walls and barbed wire — and she doesn't want to relive the experience.