Merkel’s party suf­fers big loss in Ber­lin polls

The Myanmar Times - - World -

GER­MAN Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s party suf­fered a his­toric loss in Ber­lin state elec­tions while the right-wing pop­ulist Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) gained fresh sup­port, rid­ing a wave of pop­u­lar anger over her open-door refugee pol­icy.

Ac­cord­ing to pub­lic broad­cast­ers’ pro­jec­tions, the anti-Is­lam AfD party won around 14 per­cent in the cap­i­tal which has long prided it­self on be­ing a hip, di­verse and mul­ti­cul­tural city.

The strong AfD re­sult, thanks to sup­port es­pe­cially in the vast tower block districts in Ber­lin’s for­mer com­mu­nist east, meant it has now won op­po­si­tion seats in 10 of 16 states one year ahead of na­tional elec­tions.

Ms Merkel’s cen­tre-right Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union (CDU) won only 17.5pc – its worst post­war re­sult in the city, be­fore or af­ter the 1989 fall of the Ber­lin Wall – likely spelling the end of its term as ju­nior coali­tion part­ner to the So­cial Democrats (SPD), who won around 22pc.

The elec­tion in the chron­i­cally in­debted city-state of 3.5 mil­lion peo­ple was dom­i­nated by lo­cal is­sues, in­clud­ing poor pub­lic ser­vices, crum­bling school build­ings, late trains and a hous­ing short­age, as well as prob­lems in cop­ing with the mi­grant in­flux.

The big­gest EU econ­omy took in 1 mil­lion asy­lum seek­ers last year, and over 70,000 of them came to Ber­lin, with thou­sands still housed in the cav­ernous hangars of the Nazi-built for­mer Tem­pel­hof air­port, once the hub for the Cold War-era Ber­lin air­lift.

Ber­lin’s SPD Mayor Michael Mueller had dra­mat­i­cally warned be­fore the polls that a strong AfD re­sult would be “seen through­out the world as a sign of the resur­gence of the right and of Nazis in Ger­many”.

The vote marked an­other mile­stone for the up­start AfD, which has cam­paigned on a xeno­pho­bic plat­form sim­i­lar to France’s Na­tional Front or far-right pop­ulists in Aus­tria and the Nether­lands.

“From zero to dou­ble-dig­its, that’s a first for Ber­lin,” cheered the AfD’s top Ber­lin can­di­date, Ge­org Pazder­ski, pre­dict­ing that the elec­torate would next year kick out Ms Merkel’s na­tional right-left grand coali­tion.

“We’ve ar­rived in the cap­i­tal,” said the party’s co-leader Beatrix von Storch, hail­ing the “huge suc­cess”.

Ms Merkel’s CDU, which has a na­tional ma­jor­ity, in Ber­lin has served as ju­nior coali­tion part­ner to Mr Mueller’s SPD, tra­di­tion­ally the strong­est party in the city .

Mr Mueller has re­jected a new coali­tion with the CDU and was seen likely to team up with the ecol­o­gist Greens and the far-left Die Linke party, each of whom scored around 15pc.

Such a “red-red-green” coali­tion, its mem­bers hope, could one day be repli­cated at the na­tional level.

Ms Merkel, mean­while, af­ter suf­fer­ing a sting­ing loss to the AfD in an­other re­gional poll two weeks ago, will face fur­ther pres­sure “to ex­plain her po­lit­i­cal strat­egy”, Gero Neuge­bauer of Ber­lin’s Free Uni­ver­sity told the Han­dels­blatt busi­ness daily.

An­other an­a­lyst, Kai Arzheimer of Mainz Uni­ver­sity, also pre­dicted ten­sions would rise be­tween the CDU and its Bavar­ian sis­ter party the CSU, but he stressed the al­liance was un­likely to change its top can­di­date Ms Merkel. –

Photo: AFP

Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union can­di­date Frank Henkel (cen­tre) speaks af­ter Ber­lin’s state elec­tions on Septem­ber 18.

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