German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party lost in three regional elections on Sunday in what is considered an emphatic rejection of her open-door refugee policy.
With a high turnout in all the votes, the result is a big setback for Merkel, who has led Europe’s biggest economy for a decade, and could narrow her room for maneuver as she tries to convince her European Union partners to seal a deal with Turkey to stem the tide of migrants, Reuters reported.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) lost ground in all three states – Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in the west and Saxony-Anhalt in the east – which were together widely seen as offering a verdict on Merkel’s liberal migrant policy.
The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), already represented in five of Germany’s 16 regional assemblies, succeeded in entering three more.
“These results are a serious rebuke for Merkel and the most pronounced protest vote we’ve seen so far,” said Holger Schmieding, an analyst at Berenberg Bank.
The result in the two western states was the worst-case scenario for Merkel, who has staked her legacy on her decision to open Germany’s doors to over one million migrants last year.
But she still looks set to run for a fourth successive term as chancellor, with no real challenger for the right to lead her party into next year’s federal election.
“The result will increase the noise within the CDU and constrain the government’s options on migrants and Greece, but Merkel’s chancellorship is not at risk,” said Carsten Nickel at Teneo Intelligence.
Responding to voters’ fears, she has promised to stem the flow of migrants to Germany, and is trying to convince Turkey to help – and other EU partners to share the burden.
In the last few weeks, the numbers of migrants entering Germany have fallen.
The AfD’s rise, which has coincided with strong gains by other European anti-immigrant parties including the National Front in France, punctures the centrist consensus around which the mainstream parties have formed alliances in Germany, and may embolden more European leaders to challenge Merkel on the migrant issue, the report said.
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