Germany’s Merkel sticks with migrant policy despite electoral setbacks

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A string of election victories by an anti-refugee political party will not change the German government’s policies on taking in migrants from the Middle East and North Africa, an official said.

“The German government will continue to pursue its refugee policy with all its might both at home and abroad,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said after the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party made solid gains in regional elections on March 13.

AfD supporters. /AFP
AfD supporters. /AFP

AfD entered state parliaments in all three regions that voted, winning 24 percent of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt and over 10 percent in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.

Süddeutsche Zeitung commentator Heribert Prantl wrote of the results: “The remarkable thing about the AfD is that it succeeded without a real leader at the top.

“We’ve always know that xenophobic attitudes prevail among up to 20 percent of the population in our country – just like in other EU countries, where far-right parties have long established themselves. But until [now] the prevailing view in Germany was that this bottom crust could not be active without a charismatic leader. It now emerges that such a figure is not required.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU) lost support in Baden-Württemberg – a region dominated by the CDU since the end of the World War II – and Rhineland Palatinate but remained the largest party in Saxony-Anhalt.

The majority of votes still went to parties who support Merkel’s pro-refugee stance. In all three states, incumbent premiers held on to their seat.

Merkel’s policy has increasingly polarized the German public as well over 1.1 million refugees have entered the country in the past year. The welcoming atmosphere at the Munich train station when refugees first arrived has given way to anger, especially after hundreds of women were sexually assaulted on New Year’s Eve in Cologne by large groups of mostly Arab and North African men.

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