In what is seen as a bid to woo her electorate German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a public ban on the full-face veil.
She said the Muslim full-face veil was not compatible with German culture.
“Here we say ‘show your face’. So full veiling is not appropriate here. It should be prohibited wherever legally possible,” she said.
She was addressing a crowd of a 1000 delegates ahead of her conservative Christian Democrats’ (CDU) party conference vote, which is expected to return her for the ninth time as it’s chief.
The call for the ban won Merkel overwhelming cheers and applause on Tuesday.
Only a year ago, the CDU rejected such a ban. But with poll rates falling after Merkel allowed in a million over refugees mostly from predominantly Muslim countries the CDU has decided to change it’s stance.
Even though polls show that the CDU party is a front runner in the general election scheduled for September 2017, the right wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been gaining in many state elections. The AfD is currently polling at about 12 percent nationally.
Merkel’s government has attempted to address public fears and anger surrounding last year’s record influx of nearly 1.1 million refugees and migrants, by adopting a stricter approach towards refugees.
Merkel told the delegates that last year’s influx of refugees would not happen again.
“A situation like that [in] the summer of 2015 can and should not be repeated,” Merkel said at the two-day conference in the western industrial city of Essen. “This was and remains our declared political goal.”
She told the conference refugees had found protection in Germany against war, persecution, and lack of perspective in their troubled homelands. But she also said “not every refugee can stay”.
Delegates celebrated the chancellor’s one-and-half hour speech wish an 11-minute standing ovation.
62 year old Chancellor Merkel, who has led Germany for 11 years, last month confirmed she would run for a fourth term but acknowledged the election would be “more difficult” than any other she has contested. In September, her party suffered a significant defeat in local elections.
This is not the first time that a suggestion to ban the veil has been touted. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere had also called for the veil to barred from public places in August. “It does not fit into our society for us, for our communication, for our cohesion in the society…. This is why we demand you show your face,” he said at the time.
Germany’s proposal follows similar bans in France, Belgium and Switzerland. Cannes, a city on the French Riviera famous for its annual film festival, temporarily banned religious swimwear — including burkinis — in the wake of recent terror attacks in the country. The bans were later overturned in court.
Another stint for Merkel would also be significant because a large part of the German electorate is looking for stability in uncertain times after the Brexit vote in Britain, the election of Donald Trump in the United States and the rise of populist movements in several European countries.