Saturday

15th Dec 2018

Anti-immigrant party beats Merkel in local elections

  • AfD's candidate Leif-Erik Holm (r) with party leaders, Alexander Gauland and Beatrix von Storch after the vote's results. (Photo: Reuters)

Voters in Germany’s regional election handed a heavy blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel and her welcoming refugee policy on Sunday (4 September).

Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) were beaten into third place by the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the north-eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern by taking 20.8 percent of the vote.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The CDU fell from 23 percent to 19 percent in their worst result in the state.

Both came in behind the Social Democrats (SPD), the region’s dominant political group, which received 30 percent of the votes, falling from 35 percent in 2011.

The neo-nazi NPD was driven from the regional assembly, its support dropping below the 5 percent threshold.

The election was dominated by the refugee issue, a year after Merkel's decision to let in asylum seekers making their way across Europe.

“This is a slap in the face for Merkel – not only in Berlin but also in her home state,” said Frauke Petry, joint-leader of the AfD.

“The voters made a clear statement against Merkel's disastrous immigration policies. This put her in her place.”

“We are writing history in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern,” Leif-Erik Holm, the AfD’s lead candidate in the state said. “Perhaps today is the beginning of the end of the chancellorship of Angela Merkel.”

AfD, founded in 2013, won 24 percent of the vote in Sachen Anhalt region in March, and is now represented in nine of Germany’s 16 regions. It is now gearing up for regional elections in Berlin in two weeks time.

It is particularly doing well in eastern German regions, which are generally poorer, more sceptical of mainstream parties and more critical of immigration, although Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has taken in only around 25,000 asylum seekers out of the million that arrived to the country last year.

However, AfD will not take power in the region, as other parties refuse to co-operate with it, the SPD is expected to maintain its coalition with the CDU.

Wake-up call?

Sunday’s election is also seen as a test for next year’s general election, as protesting voters are leaving the mainstream parties to vote for AfD.

Merkel’s support has sunk to a five-year low recently to 45 percent, down from 67 percent a year ago.

The AfD is polling at 12 percent on national level and it is expected to be the first far-right party to enter the Bundestag since 1945.

Peter Tauber, CDU general secretary, blamed the result on widespread “discontent and protest” at Merkel’s refugee policy.

Social Democrat leader Sigmar Gabriel said Germany's main political parties “must ask themselves how we can stop people from choosing the AfD”.

"The key is that we must bring about more security, not just domestic security or protection from crime and terrorism, but also social security," he said after the vote according to AFP.

Merkel has not yet announced if she will run for a fourth term in office next autumn due to pressure from the sister party of her CDU, the Bavarian CSU, according to Der Spiegel magazine.

Bavarian finance minister Markus Soeder said the results should serve as a "wake-up call" for Merkel on her refugee policy.

He told a regional newspaper that Merkel needed to adopt a hard line on migrants.

"It is no longer possible to ignore people's views on this issue. Berlin needs to change tack," he said.

The defeat comes at a crucial time for Merkel, as she needs to deal with the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, a fragile migration deal with Turkey, and an increasingly assertive Russia at Europe’s doorstep.

AfD’s win was hailed by French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who tweeted: “What was impossible yesterday has become possible: the patriots of AfD sweep up the party of Ms Merkel. All my congratulations!”

EU dithering aggravated refugee crisis, Merkel says

If EU states, including Germany, had acted earlier and in concert to share burdens and protect external boundaries, the crisis would have been less severe, says the German chancellor.

Under-fire Merkel defends migration policy

The German chancellor sticks by her welcoming policy towards migrants, while a poll suggests more than 50 percent of Germans do not want her to stand for a fourth term in office.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders endorse creation of eurozone budget
  2. Selmayr has no comment on MEPs' call to resign
  3. May had 'robust' discussion with Juncker
  4. UK to continue talks on EU 'assurances'
  5. EU invests €20m in AI software for self-driving cars
  6. Belgian PM 'not optimistic', urges 'no deal' Brexit preparedness
  7. Romanian president expects no Brexit summit in January
  8. Swedish MPs reject Lofven to lead new government

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. No further Brexit talks planned, despite May's pleas
  2. EU leaders stuck on asylum reform
  3. Orban and other PMs spread fake news, says Juncker
  4. Fishing quota and no-deal Brexit preparation This WEEK
  5. Kosovo has right to own army, Germany and US say
  6. EU needs election-meddling stress tests
  7. Russian and US obstruction was 'insult' to climate scientists
  8. EU-27 unimpressed by May, offer little on Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us