People in other countries “would be delighted if they could demonstrate in this way,” Angela Merkel said, as more than 100 far-right protests attempted to drown out her speech with boos, whistles and cries of “traitor.”
“That’s why we should be happy that we have democracy in Germany and that we can vote freely. Other people can only dream of that,” the Chancellor said, according to Die Welt.
Then, addressing her own voters, she said “you can feel it here on this market square that it rests on you to go and vote on September 24th.”
Merkel is currently touring Germany giving speeches in town halls and market squares, as she seeks a fourth term in office in elections on September 24th.
Despite the fact that her Christian Democrats (CDU) are far ahead in polling, Merkel has become a divisive figure due to her refugee policies. Opponents on the far-right of German politics accuse her of endangering the country’s security – and even trying to alter its Christian culture – by allowing hundreds of thousands of refugees to enter the country over the past two years.
At a speech in Heidelberg in southern Germany on Tuesday demonstrators threw tomatoes at the Chancellor, with one hitting her on the hip. Meanwhile protesters have disrupted entire speeches in the eastern states of Brandenburg and Saxony, where the far-right are particularly strong, with calls of “traitor”, “liar” and “fraud.”
But Merkel explained on Thursday that the hostile reception would not put her off visiting small town east Germany, where her own constituency lies.
“It’s important to me to always go to those places where I won’t be given a friendly reception,” she told the Redaktionsnetzwerks Deutschland.
“Lots of people who don’t belong to the booers and whistlers need to be given encouragement to show civil courage in the face of hatred.”
She said that she often sought dialogue with opponents in her own constituency, but that “if someone starts whistling or yelling I can't speak so well anymore.”
Her Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière was also critical of the protesters.
“Whoever can’t bear other opinions, destroys placards and shouts others down, disqualifies themselves from democracy,” he told the Passauer Neue Presse.
Polls show that Merkel's conservative alliance is holding a strong lead of around 15 percentage points against the runner-up Social Democratic Party.