BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is stepping down as leader of her party after four terms at its helm, leaving behind a political legacy that defined Europe but divided her country.
Merkel’s 18 years at the head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and 13 years as chancellor have seen Germany transformed into an economic and diplomatic force. Known as Germany’s “mother,” Merkel emerged as the chief powerbroker of the European Union.
But her decision to allow in more than a million migrants during the peak of the 2015 crisis spawned an ever-growing tide of far-right movements, and crushed poll results for mainstream parties — including her own.
She’s also faced criticism for failing to heal the divide with the country's former Communist east, where incomes and pensions still remain lower than the west, some 31 years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
Public demonstrations from movements on the far left and far right are once again a daily reality in Germany.
“There is now an invisible wall. Before, it was made of bricks and mortar. And now there is a new divide in our country,” said Winfried Wenzel, a retired engineer who once marched against Communism and now marches against Merkel. “We are very disappointed in Mrs. Merkel. She didn’t listen to the people.”
This segment originally aired December 6, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.