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Angela Merkel's CDU beaten by anti-migrant AfD party in German state election / Far-right AfD overtakes Merkel’s conservatives in regional vote

Far-right AfD overtakes Merkel’s conservatives in regional vote

The state which is home to Merkel’s constituency could deliver the CDU’s third-worst result since World War II.

Matthew Karnitschnig
9/4/16, 7:03 PM CET

BERLIN — Germany’s anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party surged ahead of Angela Merkel’s conservatives in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern on Sunday, a bitter defeat for the chancellor’s party that reflects the deep frustration with her refugee policies.

While early projections predicted the Social Democrats would remain the strongest party in the state with about 30 percent of the vote, the AfD — running in the state for the first time — garnered 21 percent, well ahead of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) with 19 percent.

“This is an excellent result that we couldn’t have dreamed of before,” said Leif-Erik Holm, the AfD’s lead candidate.

Even so, the AfD is almost sure to remain in opposition with the Social Democrats and conservatives winning enough support to continue their coalition.

The AfD has performed well in other recent regional elections but the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern result, if the projections are confirmed, would mark the first time the party has overtaken Merkel’s conservatives.

Many Germans worry about the country’s ability to integrate those who are already here.

The result in Meck-Pomm, as locals refer to their region, is a particualr blow to Merkel whose Bundestag constituency is located in the state, and who grew up nearby. If the result holds, it would be the third-worst showing for the Christian Democrats since World War Two.

Though the number of refugees arriving in Germany has dropped considerably in recent months, many Germans worry about the country’s ability to integrate those who are already here. Those concerns were hit home by a string of recent terror attacks in Germany and neighboring countries, some of which involved refugees.

Though all major parties suffered losses in Sunday’s election, the outcome is a particularly worrying sign for Merkel’s conservatives. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the country’s most sparsley-populated state with just 2 percent of Germany’s registered voters, has been governed by a Social Democrat-led grand coaltion with Merkel’s Christian Democrats since 2006.

Even though the economy in the long-depressed state improved in recent years, earning Social Democrat premier Erwin Sellering high marks, many voters used the election to voice their dissatisfaction with Merkel’s refugee policy by voting for the AfD.

Despite the fact that the state has taken in few refugees, polls suggested that the issue was formost in voters’ minds. The result made clear that voters primarily hold Merkel’s conservatives and not the Social Democrats responsible for refugee policies.

Exit polls showed that while most the AfD’s voters did not vote in the last election, it also benefited from many defectors from the Christian Democrats.


Matthew Karnitschnig

Angela Merkel's CDU beaten by anti-migrant AfD party in German state election

'Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of Angela Merkel's chancellorship today,' says Local AfD leader Leif-Erik Holm

Matt Payton

Angela Merkel's ruling CDU party has been beaten into third place by the anti-migrant Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), following elections in a German state.

The right-wing populist AfD won 20.8 per cent of votes in the election for the state legislature in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Ms Merkel's Christian Democrats polled 19 per cent, their worst result yet in the state.

The centre-left Social Democrats, who led the outgoing state government in a coalition with the conservatives, remained the strongest party with 30.6 per cent of the vote.
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Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, in Germany's northeastern corner, is home to 1.6 million of the country's 80 million people and is a relative political lightweight. It is, however, the state where Ms Merkel has her parliamentary constituency, and Sunday's regional vote was the first of five before a national election expected next September.

Chancellor Merkel's refugee policies were a prominent issue in the campaign for Sunday's election, which came a year after she decided to let in migrants from Hungary. Germany registered more than 1 million people as asylum-seekers last year.

Ms Merkel has stuck to her insistence that “we will manage” the refugee crisis, and has also said that “sometimes you have to endure such controversies.”

National AfD leader Frauke Petry celebrated “a blow to Angela Merkel.” Local AfD leader Leif-Erik Holm told supporters: "Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of Angela Merkel's chancellorship today."

The AfD, however, fell well short of its aim of becoming the strongest party, and also didn't match the 24.3 per cent support it won in another eastern state, Saxony-Anhalt, in March.

Earlier in the year, the centre-right CDU party was expected to help form the region's coalition government along with the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) mirroring the arrangement at the federal level.

“This result, and the strong performance of AfD, is bitter for many, for everyone in our party,” said Peter Tauber, Ms Merkel's Christian Democrats' general secretary.

He said the state government's positive record took a back seat for many voters, “because among a recognisable part, there was an explicit wish to voice displeasure and protest, and we saw that particularly strongly in the discussion about refugees.”

Sunday's result could make it more difficult for Ms Merkel to bury a festering dispute with the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian arm of her conservative bloc, which has long criticized her decision to open the borders and advocated an annual cap on migrants.

CSU general secretary Andreas Scheuer said that “we feel vindicated in our course.”

The AfD is now represented in nine of Germany's 16 state legislatures and hopes to enter the national Parliament next year. There's no realistic prospect at present of the AfD going into government as other parties will not deal with it.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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