Germany’s far-right, anti-immigration party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, has made huge strides in the three states that voted in regional elections on Sunday.
The German public was largely expected to punish Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party for her “open-door” policy towards refugees. Compared to 2011, Merkel’s party lost support in all three states while the actual voter turnout grew in every state.
The AfD’s biggest win came in Saxony-Anhalt, where the party earned 24.2% of the votes, making it the second biggest party in the state behind Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), which won 2.8% (compared to 32.5% in 2011).
Saxony-Anhalt has long been a fiefdom of the CDU and was the only one of the three states to have elected members of the National Democratic party of Germany (NPD) (another far-right party) in the 2011 regional elections.
In Baden-Württemberg, the AfD got 15.1% of the votes, making it the third biggest party in the state after the Greens (30.3%) and the CDU (27%). Baden-Württemberg has proved to be a huge defeat for the CDU (the only state it lost) losing 12% of the votes it had in 2011.
The voters in Rhineland Palatinate also showed their support for the AfD (12,6%) as it finished third behind the SPD (36.2%) and the CDU (31.8%).
The result of the votes reflects a German public increasingly weary of Merkel’s “Wir schaffen das,” (“We can do this”) motto as the country grapples with accommodating and processing over one million refugees who made their way to the country in 2015.
The German mood surrounding the refugee crisis significantly shifted after mass sex attacks on New Year’s Eve in Cologne that were mostly carried out by men of Middle Eastern and North African origin.
German media and politicians have called on Merkel to change her policy as the results of the elections were coming in.
On Monday, Germany’s economic newspaper Handelsblatt ran on its front page a cartoon of Merkel struggling to lift up weights painted with the German flag with the title “Wake-up call.”
The newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung ran an editorial arguing that “The AFD is more dangerous than the NPD was,” and an editorial in Die Welt asked whether the election results would “shake the Chancellor awake?”
Again though, Merkel’s biggest critics are those who are supposed to support her. Andreas Scheuer, the general secretary of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union, sister party of the CDU, said the government needed to find quick ways to limit the number of refugees coming into the country.
“This result has shown a lot of protest voters have expressed discontent on the biggest issue — the refugee topic — so all of the established parties that stood for election in the three states need to draw the conclusion ‘we have understood’,” Scheuer said on German radio Deutschlandfunk.
On Twitter, a member of the CDU suggested on that the way the government had decided over the refugee policies was akin to how decisions are made in a dictatorship.
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