German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) party fell to third place in a state election on Sunday behind the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
In a sobering defeat for Merkel in her home district of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a year ahead of federal elections, the rising AfD party won 21.4 percent of the vote in their first election by campaigning fiercely against Merkel’s floundering refugee policy.
“This isn’t pretty for us,” said Michael Grosse-Groehmer, a top deputy to Merkel in Berlin’s parliament. “Those who voted for the AfD were sending a message of protest.”
The election took place precisely a year after Merkel’s decision to open Germany’s borders to over a million refugees, and consequently at a time where public dissatisfaction of her policies are at an all-time high.
“This is a slap in the face for Merkel – not only in Berlin but also in her home state,” said Frauke Petry, co-leader of the AfD. “The voters made a clear statement against Merkel’s disastrous immigration policies. This put her in her place.”
“Now it is our responsibility to make politics for the people. The people no longer trust the old establishment parties to do so,” he added.
The results have shocked Merkel’s party.
“This result, and the strong performance of AfD, is bitter for many, for everyone in our party,” Peter Tauber, the general secretary of the CDU, said in Berlin.
He said that the state government’s positive record had taken a back seat for many voters, “because among a recognizable part, there was an explicit wish to voice displeasure and protest, and we saw that particularly strongly in the discussion about refugees.”
The far-left Left Party won 12.5 percent, down from 18.4 percent five years ago, while the pro-environment Green Party won 5 percent, down from 8.7 percent. The far-right NPD was disqualified from the state assembly due to falling below the 5 percent threshold with 3.2 percent.
Voters already punished Merkel in three state elections in March, voting for the AfD and rejecting Merkel’s CDU party.
A German poll published Sunday also indicated that the AfD is making big gains nationwide, showing that the party would win 12 percent of the vote, making it the third largest party in Germany.
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where Merkel’s constituency of 1.6 million reside, is an economically weak district in Germany’s northeastern corner.
Merkel had made one last plea to the population to reject the AfD days before the election.
“The more the people who go to vote, the less the percentage won by some parties that, in my view, have no solution for problems and which are built mainly around a protest — often with hate,” she said.
Merkel herself is in China attending the G20 summit, a year ahead of the German federal election in September 2017.