By Erik Kirschbaum and Andrea Shalal | BERLIN
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats were beaten into third place by the anti-immigrant and anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in a north-eastern state election on Sunday, TV exit polls showed.
In a stinging defeat for Merkel in her home district that could weaken her chances of a fourth term in next year's federal elections, the upstart AfD took 21.9 percent of the vote behind the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) in their first election in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern by campaigning hard against the chancellor's policies on refugees, according to a projection by ARD TV at 1.15 p.m. ET.
"This isn't pretty for us," said Michael Grosse-Broemer, one of Merkel's top deputies in parliament in Berlin in a ZDF TV interview. "Those who voted for the AfD were sending a message of protest."
Merkel's approval rating has plunged to a five-year low of 45 percent, down from 67 percent a year ago, due to spreading disenchantment with her open-door policies on refugees.
According to a Der Spiegel magazine report, Merkel wanted to announce her intention of running for a fourth term this year but put that on hold due to resistance from her Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union. The arch-conservative CSU has demanded that Merkel put limits on the numbers of refugees.
"This was a dark day for Merkel," Thomas Jaeger, a political scientist at Cologne University, told Reuters. "Everyone knows that she lost this election. Her district in parliament is there, she campaigned there, and refugees are her issue."
The election took place exactly a year after Merkel's decision to open Germany's borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees and the discontent in the state was palpable.
"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."
The AfD's win was cheered by the leader of France's far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen, who posted on Twitter: "What was impossible yesterday has become possible: the patriots of AfD sweep up the party of Ms Merkel. All my congratulations!”
Sunday, September 4, 2016
Merkel Goes Down In Her Own District
The Anti Immigration Movement is gaining strength over in Germany.