GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party was humiliated in key regional elections on Sunday as voters delivered their verdict at the ballot box about her open-door refugee policies.
By Allan Hall and Zoie O’Brien
PUBLISHED: 00:01, Mon, Mar 14, 2016
Angela Merkel’s CDU party have been roundly beaten in key regional elections today
Exit poll results in three out of 16 German states foretell a wipeout in next year’s general election as the hard-right capitalised on public disquiet and altered the political landscape forever.
Baden-Württemberg – solidly middle class and home to blue chip companies like Porsche and Daimler – was won by the Green Party after Merkel’s CDU lost nearly 11 per cent support since the last vote there in 2011.
And the Alternative for Germany – AfD anti-immigrant pary – garnered 12.5 percent of the votes, propelling a party that her supporters call “Nazis in pinstripes” into the local parliament.
Their success was even more prominent in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt where it scored a massive 23 percent.
Supporters of Germany’s new anti-immigration party celebrated on Sunday after the Alternative for Germany (AfD) surged into three state assemblies with scores that would have been unthinkable only a year ago.
AfD leader Andre Poggenburg, called Angela Merkel “the worst Chancellor is German history” as he celebrated his success.
He said: “What an amazing evening. We fought like lions for your land.”
Formed three years ago in opposition to euro zone bailouts, the AfD has morphed into an anti-immigration party over the past year, kicking out its founder and seizing on a record influx of migrants to lure new voters and steal disaffected members of Merkel’s conservatives.
On Sunday they had their best day ever, winning a shocking 24 percent of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt, to become the second-biggest party in the state parliament.
Exit polls showed that the AfD drew thousands of voters from Merkel’s conservatives, particularly in Baden-Wuerttemberg.
Germany has long resisted parties with far-right ideologies because of its past with the Nazi party.
But the popularity of anti-immigration parties is growing after the country accepted over 1m refugees last year.
The streets of Germany have seen a contestant stream of protests in the last year over sex attacks carried out by migrants, especially in Cologne.
Ms Merkel is largely blamed for the chaos of Nee Year’s Eve where over 100 women were robbed and sexually assaulted, because of her welcoming message to migrant families.
And this was reflected at the ballot box.
Analysts believe Merkel’s open-door immigration policy could have cost her dearly
The elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg – and in the states of Rheinland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt – were billed as a referendum on Merkel’s decision to open the country’s doors to people fleeing war.
The results pile even more pressure on the embattled chancellor to change course and put a cap on refugees arriving in the country – something she had steadfastly refused to do despite spiralling violence and a surge in support for extremists.
The numbers on the so-called ‘Super Sunday’ vote crunched on the wrong side of disastrous for her.
AFD, the country’s anti-immigration party, gained 12.5% of the vote
In Rhineland-Palatinate the CDU came in second behind the centre-left SPD with 32.5 per cent and the AfD scoring double-digits again with 11 per cent.
In Saxony-Anhalt, an eastern state which has seen some of the worst violence projected towards the 1.2 million refugees who arrived in the country last year, the AfD came in as the third strongest party.
Merkel’s CDU was the biggest winner with 32 percent, but this was down nearly seven percent on the last election and a projected alliance between the SPD and the Die Linke – the Left – party means it will be deprived of power. Die Linke scored 21 percent of the vote.
The SPD – Mrs. Merkel’s partners in power on the national stage and supporters opf her refugee policy – lost nearly 10 per cent in the state over their last showing in 2011.
Guido Wolf, the CDU’s top candidate in Baden-Wüerttemberg, said: “These elections are very important as they will serve as a litmus test for the government’s disputed policy” on refugees, said Düsseldorf University political scientist Jens Walther.
“These are numbers that really hit us.
This is the most difficult election campaign the party has had to run
“This is the most difficult election campaign the party has had to run.”
Merkel’s refusal to put a cap on refugee arrivals – instead trying to broker a common European strategy on dealing with them – has seen her popularity plunge in recent weeks.
The AfD, a party whose chairwoman Frauke Petry recently reccommended German border guards open fire on illegal refugees, has become the main vehicle of protest against her.
The party currently has seats in five regional parliaments as well as having seats in the EU parliament. Large inroads today will only reinforce fears that Germany is shifting to the right after decades of middle-of-the-road concensus politics following the collapse of Nazism in 1945.
Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) warned voters: “We have a lot to lose if we deal carelessly with social stability and democracy.”
The exit poll result in man Baden-Wuerttemberg was the lowest since the West German state was founded. But it was not the loss that counted so much as the party which scored double digit success in all three states.
“AfD shocks Germany!” said the popular Bild newspaper reporting on its gains which shook the political establishment to its core.
Ever since the defeat of Nazism in 1945 the right and left in Germany have collaborated together to keep far-right extremism at bay.
But the Merkel policy of unlimited immigration has finally let the genie out of the bottle.
Today’s regional election results could force Merkel to rethink Germany’s liberal immigration policy
“The forecasts show: Super Sunday brought a real electoral earthquake!” added Bild. “Triumph for the Greens in Baden-Württemberg, SPD WINS in Rhineland-Palatinate and the AfD will bring in well over 20 percent in Saxony-Anhalt!”
It called the CDU defeat in Baden-Baden-Wuerttemberg “an historically bad result” and political observers of all parties say the midnight oil will be burning in Merkel’s office until the small hours as party chieftans contemplate the results and how to try to win back public approval.
But the results were hardly a surprise: polls had predicted a slapping for her for weeks as the social fabric in Germany wears ever thinner through the arrival of over a million migrants in the space of a year
The AfD still leader Frauke Petry told German public radio that her party is not expecting to enter government in any of the three states.