German Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered a major blow Sunday when nationalist party Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) beat her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.
The election has been pumped up to be a test for Merkel’s open-door refugee policy and her chances of securing a fourth term as chancellor in next year’s parliamentary election. CDU received just 19 percent of the votes, the lowest it’s ever received in Merkel’s home state.
AfD, which has gained popularity with its anti-immigration platform, took second place with 21 percent’s support. The Social Democrats grabbed a comfortable win with 30 percent of the votes. Merkel has struggled to keep her party united and many conservative voters have turned to AfD instead.
“The strong performance of AfD is bitter for many, for everyone in our party,” said Peter Tauber, CDU’s secretary general, according to BBC. “A sizeable number of people wanted to voice their displeasure and to protest. And we saw that particularly in discussions about refugees.”
CDU’s coalition partners have been pushing for new leadership, and Merkel has yet to decide on whether or not she will run for re-election next year. Merkel has time and time again stood firm on her refugee policy, and insisted little has changed with the massive influx of more than 1 million over the past year.
“We did not reduce benefits for anyone in Germany as a result of the aid for refugees. In fact, we actually saw social improvements in some areas,” Merkel told German tabloid Bild Saturday at the G20 summit in China. “We took nothing away from people here. We are still achieving our big goal of maintaining and improving the quality of life in Germany.”
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