Merkel under pressure after polls defeat
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. –