Merkel set for tainted victory
Angela Merkel is set for a bittersweet victory in elections today, with German voters expected to grant her a fourth term as chancellor but also to install a nationalist party in parliament for the first time in 60 years.
Polls suggest that the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party could win up to 60 seats – about 10 per cent of the total – with immigration the biggest issue of the election. The party has vowed to continue hounding Merkel over her decision to admit more than a million asylum seekers to the country.
The AfD’s call for an official inquiry into whether Merkel broke German law received a boost yesterday from a report in the conservative daily newspaper Die Welt that a nonpartisan Bundestag committee had concluded that the decision to open the country’s borders should have been put to MPs.
Merkel is ahead in the polls but her lead is unlikely to be large enough to ensure an overall majority. Coalition talks could last for weeks or even months.
This week, at one of her last campaign rallies, in Hamburg, where she was born, she showed her apprehension about a potential late surge by the AfD as she appealed to voters to shun the populist party.
Alexander Gauland, the AfD cocandidate for chancellor, horrified Merkel and many other Germans this week with a call to the nation to be proud of the actions of German soldiers in the two world wars.
Some on the left in Germany have castigated Merkel for the rise of the AfD. ‘‘Merkel deserves to be voted out. She bears the responsibility for Nazis entering the Bundestag,’’ wrote Jakob Augstein, a commentator for the left-leaning Der Spiegel magazine.
If the AfD manages to finish third in the election, it will pile pressure on Martin Schulz’s SPD party to rule out a repeat of the current ‘‘grand coalition’’ with Merkel’s CDU, because that would make the AfD the main opposition party in the Bundestag. That brings with it privileges such as the chairmanship of the powerful budget committee.
Merkel and the leaders of all the established parties have ruled out forming a coalition with the AfD.
Research by polling company Infratest dimap suggests that immigration has become the top election issue in Germany for the first time since it started its surveys in 1998. In all, 44 per cent of respondents said it was their biggest concern.
Merkel’s strength lies in appealing to all age ranges, with 39 per cent of Germans aged 18 to 24 backing her, well in excess of the 22 per cent opting for Schulz.