ESSEN – As the world riles with the election of US president-elect Donald Trump and the introduction of Brexit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel launched her re-election campaign battle on Tuesday, December 6, with a vow to ban Muslim women face-veil.
Speaking to 1,000 members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Essen, the western rust belt city where she won the party leadership 16 years ago, Merkel said the Islamic full-face veil must be banned “wherever legally possible,” ITV news reported on Tuesday, December 6.
She added that it “is not acceptable in our country. In interpersonal communication, which plays a fundamental role here, we show our face.
“And that’s why a full veil is inappropriate in our country. It should be banned wherever legally possible. It does not belong in our country.”
France banned the full-face veil in 2011 and was followed by Belgium, Bulgaria and parts of Switzerland.
The new comments reverses her earlier position last Summer calling a similar ban unworkable and possibly unconstitutional.
Facing down internal critics and a rising far-right challenge with the most conservative party conference address of her career, she introduced herself as a law-and-order candidate.
In a concession to increasingly vocal conservative critics in her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the centrist German leader vowed to speed up deportations of failed asylum seekers.
The pastor’s daughter from communist East Germany will be running at a time when Europe is navigating its deepest set of crises since World War Two.
Britons voted for Brexit in June, while Trump has questioned the relevance of the post-war transatlantic alliance and sent conciliatory signals to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The brutal war in Syria has led hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee to Europe.
Merkel’s decision to welcome nearly 900,000 migrants to Germany last year hit her popularity, triggered a damaging fight with her Bavarian allies and led to a surge in support for the anti-immigrant, eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD).
The party is expected to win its first seats in the federal parliament next year.
After securing an 11-minute standing ovation, political analyst Prof Karl-Rudolf Körter suggested Merkel’s conservative tone reflected a new political reality in Germany.
“But it wasn’t a transformation,” he said. “The core Merkel melody was still recognizable.”