Merkel un­der pres­sure after polls de­feat

The Myanmar Times - - World -

GER­MAN Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel came un­der re­newed pres­sure over her liberal refugee pol­icy yes­ter­day after an up­start anti-mi­grant pop­ulist party handed her party a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat in her home state.

The xeno­pho­bic Al­ter­na­tive for Germany (AfD) clinched around 22 per­cent in its first bid for seats in the re­gional par­lia­ment of Meck­len­burgWestern Vor­pom­mern, re­sults showed after most bal­lots had been counted from the Septem­ber 4 polls.

Ms Merkel’s con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union (CDU) gar­nered just 19pc in its worst-ever score in the north­east­ern state, while the So­cial Democrats main­tained top place with around 30pc.

AfD’s lead can­di­date Leif-Erik Holm called it a “proud re­sult for a young party” as the pop­ulists se­cured seats in the ninth out of 16 re­gional par­lia­ments.

“The ic­ing on the cake is that we have left the CDU be­hind us ... Maybe that is the be­gin­ning of the end of Merkel’s time as chan­cel­lor,” he said.

Al­though the for­merly com­mu­nist state is Germany’s poor­est and least pop­u­lous, it car­ries a sym­bolic mean­ing as it is home to Ms Merkel’s con­stituency Stral­sund.

To­gether with Ber­lin’s elec­tions in two weeks, these polls are a key test ahead of gen­eral elec­tions next year, when Ms Merkel’s de­ci­sion a year ago to let in tens of thou­sands of Syr­ian and other mi­grants is ex­pected to be a key point of con­tention.

Al­though she won praise at first, the op­ti­mism has given way to fears over how Germany will man­age to in­te­grate the 1 mil­lion peo­ple who ar­rived last year alone.

Ms Merkel’s de­ci­sion has left her in­creas­ingly iso­lated in Europe, and ex­posed her to heavy crit­i­cism at home, in­clud­ing from her own al­lies.

The CDU’s gen­eral sec­re­tary Peter Tauber said the re­sults were “bit­ter”, ac­knowl­edg­ing that vot­ers “wanted to send a sig­nal of protest”.

“There was only one is­sue, that is, and was, refugee pol­icy,” said the CDU’s main can­di­date Lorenz Caffier.

The “mi­gra­tion pol­icy has sparked a feel­ing of in­se­cu­rity among the Ger­man peo­ple”.

After a se­ries of at­tacks by asy­lum­seek­ers in July – in­clud­ing two claimed by the Is­lamic State group – the mood has also dark­ened. –

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