segunda-feira, 14 de março de 2016

Angela Merkel’s conservatives take a beating in state elections

Angela Merkel’s conservatives take a beating in state elections

The right-wing AfD triumphs with its anti-immigrant rhetoric.

By JANOSCH DELCKER 3/13/16, 9:04 PM CET Updated 3/13/16, 11:53 PM CET

BERLIN – On the evening of “Super Sunday,” as Germany’s media dubbed the regional elections in three of the 16 federal states, there were three winners and one big loser: Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrats.

The incumbent state premier in Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann of the Green party, and his counterpart in Rhineland Palatinate, Malu Dreyer of the Social Democrats (SPD), both managed to stay in power.

Meanwhile, the right-wing anti-immigrant party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) scored a major triumph, extending its representation to eight or half of the state parliaments in Germany.

If the elections were indeed a quasi-referendum on Merkel’s refugee policy, as they were widely viewed, then the conservative chancellor has some thinking to do.

According to an Infratest exit poll released by public broadcaster ARD immediately after the voting ended, Merkel’s CDU garnered only around 27.5 percent of the votes in its former stronghold of Baden-Württemberg, the third-largest German state, losing to the Green party which won at least 32 percent.

It was the worst defeat Merkel’s party had suffered in the state since 1952.

In Rhineland-Palatinate, CDU candidate Julia Klöckner lost to the SPD incumbent Dreyer by around 5 percentage points (projected 32.5 percent vs 37.5 percent) — a wider-than-predicted margin. That was a huge reversal from November 2015, when the CDU was 10 points ahead of the SPD.

“We worked our way up bit by bit,” Dreyer said after the results were announced. “Today, I will celebrate.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Rainer Haseloff, prime minister of federal state Saxony-Anhalt

For weeks, it seemed possible that the CDU would be able to pull out a win in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, despite the growing criticism against her refugee policy from within her own ranks. A victory in either of the states would have helped her to cling on to her controversial policy. The CDU, however, was able to keep power only in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, taking approximately 29 percent of the vote, according to exit polls.

In all three states, the AfD made significant inroads. In Saxony-Anhalt, it emerged as the second-largest party with 23 percent of the votes.

“The AfD is strong — we did not want it to be this strong,” said Reiner Haseloff, the CDU state premier of Saxony-Anhalt, indirectly blaming the Merkel administration for the rise of the AfD. “We didn’t want them in the parliament in the first place. This raises a national discussion. We need a national position to show people how we will carry on.”

But the AfD had no such doubts.

“We have a clear position when it comes to refugees policy,” said Alexander Gauland, deputy head of the AfD, after the election results began coming in. “We don’t want to take in refugees.”

In all three states, voter turnout was considerably higher than during the last elections, according to official estimates.

In Rhineland-Palatinate, the turnout jumped to 56 percent from 43 percent in 2011. In Saxony-Anhalt, around 35 percent went to vote, some 7 points higher, while in Baden-Württemberg around 35.5 percent of all voters showed up, almost 5 points higher than five years ago.


Janosch Delcker

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