German Chancellor Angela Merkel was heckled twice on Tuesday by protesters as she stubbornly defended her open-door refugee policy, one of the most contested issues in the country’s upcoming federal election.
Members of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party booed Merkel, the top candidate of the Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) at an election campaign rally in the town of Bitterfeld-Wolfen, in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.
“Merkel must go away”, “Protect basic law from Merkel” and “I used to be CDU voter, today I want to see Mrs. Merkel in court,” were the welcoming chants from AfD supporters in Bitterfeld-Wolfen, the Leipziger Volkszeitung reported.
The noise and interjections did not stop during her 30-minute speech either, especially when she touched on the subject of refugees.
Bitterfeld-Wolfen, a town with around 40,000 residents, is regarded as a high fortress of AfD voters in Germany. During the 2016 state elections, after nearly 1 million migrants arrived in Germany in 2015, AfD attracted 31.9 percent of the votes in Saxony-Anhalt.
The issue of migration has divided German society for nearly two years now, but it has become especially acute ahead of the federal elections which are scheduled for September 24.
Despite much-voiced criticism, Merkel’s party’s support now stands at 37 percent according to the latest poll by the INSA Institute released Tuesday, Reuters reported. SPD, a member of her coalition has 24 percent. The poll shows support for the Left and the AfD parties at 10 percent.
Speaking at the Bitterfeld-Wolfen rally, Merkel made clear that despite the rise in AfD’s popularity, her CDU and coalition partner SPD will not form an alliance with the AfD.
“We say clearly: no coalition with the AfD and no coalition with the Left,” Merkel said, according to Reuters. “The Social Democrats have been lacking this clarity.”
Following the torrid reception in an AfD stronghold, Merkel also received a hostile reception at her evening engagement in Brandenburg an der Havel, a German town west of Berlin, where AfD held a rally just ahead of her arrival.
The Chancellor was booed as she ascended the stage and the outbursts continued. Merkel objected to the constant interruptions, saying “problems cannot be shouted through,” but was ignored. It required police intervention to make it somewhat quieter, local media reported.
— Peter George Oliver (@PeterGOliver_RT) August 29, 2017
While defending her refugee policy, Merkel insisted that Germany is working hard to tackle illegal immigration.
“It is not, and should not be, a year like 2015. We are now looking to stop the illegal migration as much as possible,” stressed the CDU leader.
Earlier in the day, Merkel also defended her refugee policy during her annual summer news conference.
“It was important and right that we took people in back then in this exceptional situation, and is also right that we must find long-term, sustainable structures,” Merkel told reporters Tuesday in Berlin. She called for an EU-wide refugee policy reform while criticizing nation states for not taking their fair share of migrants.
“Europe itself still hasn’t done its homework to this day,” she said, according to AP.