German anti-immigration party gains big in Merkel’s home state

by WorldTribune Staff, September 5, 2016

The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party made huge gains on Sept. 4 as voters sent a “message of protest” to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats were beaten into third place by the (AfD) in the chancellor’s home district of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Leif-Erik Holm (centre) and Alexander Gauland (left) of the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) after exit polls in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state election on Sept. 4. /Reuters
Leif-Erik Holm (center) and Alexander Gauland (left) of the AfD celebrate after exit polls in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state election on Sept. 4. /Reuters

“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.”

Exit polls showed upstart AfD took 21.9 percent of the vote behind the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). The AfD, in their first election in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, campaigned hard against Merkel’s policies on refugees.

“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.”

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!”

Merkel remained defiant despite widespread anger over her immigration policies, saying the decision to admit over 1 million refugees into Germany in the past year was “the right thing to do.”

“It’s completely clear that a year like last year cannot be repeated, which is why we have taken the measures we have. But it was the right thing to do that we rose to this humanitarian responsibility and continue to do so,” Merkel said.

Merkel, who is considering running for a fourth term as chancellor next year, has seen her approval rating plunge to a five-year low of 45 percent, down from 67 percent a year ago.

“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.”

Founded in 2013, the AfD now has won seats in nine of the 16 state assemblies across the country. However, it has no chance of governing in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern since the other parties have said they would not form a coalition with the party.

The AfD is also making gains nationwide, a new poll showed on Sept. 4. If the national election were held next week, the AfD would win 12 percent of the vote, making it the third-largest party in Germany, according to a poll conducted by the Emnid institute for the Bild newspaper.