Sometimes you read a statistic that makes you do a double take.
This is one: almost half of Germans don’t want Angela Merkel to serve a second term.
According to a survey for Bild newspaper, 48 per cent of people said they did not want Mrs Merkel to continue in office after the next German election, due to be held in 2017. In comparison, 44 per cent hoped she remained in power.
‘The Teflon Chancellor’? ‘Mummy Merkel’? Germany’s very own Iron Lady: the most powerful woman in the world? The unflappable leader who steered the European Union back to calmer waters, while keeping her own economy strong?
What's on earth is going on?
Just a few months ago, it seemed Angela Merkel could do no wrong. She was the cherished Chancellor – in the top job since 2005 and beloved back home in Germany, while seemingly bossing around the boked of the European Union on an international stage.
But, suddenly, her shine is beginning to tarnish.
You don’t have to look hard to find the reason why. Mrs Merkel’s decision to throw Germany’s doors open to refugees was the political equivalent of betting all your chips on red. It was always going to be a risky and potentially divisive move.
The German Chancellor is known for her cool, calm political calculation and strategy. Her policy on refugees, however, didn't seem to come from the head but the heart.
According to the latest surveys, 47 per cent of voters think she has handled the crisis badly, compared to just 40 per cent who think she made the right decisions.
At first it seemed the German public were fully behind Mrs Merkel’s open doors immigration policy, and her statement that Syrian migrants would automatically be granted asylum. Crowds of people welcomed refugees at train stations with open arms. Now, though, opposition seems to be growing.
Mrs Merkel has so far refused to back-down from her policy or impose a limit on the number of asylum seekers the country will take.
Some 950,000 are believed to have entered Germany this year – considerably more than the official government forecast of 800,000. The numbers, inevitably, will keep growing. In November alone a record 192,827 asylum seekers crossed into the country, according to border police figures.
An anti-immigration party staged a march in Berlin against migrant policies, with demonstrators chanting “Merkel must go” Credit: AP
Even Mrs Merkel’s own party is getting twitchy. Senior members of the Christian Democrats have tabled alternative proposals for debate at a party conference later this month, including restricting the numbers of asylum seekers allowed in. The Government has also been attempting to compensate for the number of people entering Germany by refusing asylum to all applicants from the Balkans and trying to deport failed claimants as quickly as possible.
At the beginning of the year it seemed nobody could knock Mrs Merkel from her perch at the pinnacle of German and European politics. Her party was even daring to dream of an overall majority in the 2017 election.
If the Bild poll is anything to go by, this now looks hopeful to say the least.
But it’s important to emphasise that it’s not all disaster for the German Chancellor.
There’s no obvious challenger waiting in the wings, and her party is comfortably ahead in the polls. The Christian Democrats are on 38 per cent compared to their nearest rival, the Social Democrats, on 25 per cent.
So she’s safe… for now.
But if this year of crisis has taught us anything, it’s that politics is a volatile and fickle business. Just ask Jeremy Corbyn.