Anti-Immigration Party Sinks Merkel in Berlin Vote

BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats party suffered a new electoral blow on Sunday, after the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party won the highest share of the vote for the far-Right in Berlin since the Second World War.

The CSU’s Bavarian finance minister Markus Soeder was quick to call it the “second massive wake-up call” in two weeks, Reuters reported on Monday, September 19.

“A long-term and massive loss in trust among traditional voters threatens the conservative bloc,” he told the Bild daily, adding Merkel’s right-left national coalition had to win back support by changing course on its immigration policy.

Voters turned to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), which with 12.9 percent of the vote will enter its 10th regional assembly among the country’s 16 states.

The result is expected to raise pressure on Merkel and deepen rifts in the CDU.

A year before a national election, the result is the second shock to Merkel’s Christian Democrats who were routed in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern two weeks ago.

The losses triggered calls from the CSU for her to toughen up her migrant policy.

The secretary general of Merkel’s CDU, Peter Tauber, partly blamed the CSU for the losses in Berlin, which only 27 years ago was the front line of the Cold War.

“If there is a dispute within the conservative bloc, it doesn’t help us on the ground – especially if this dispute is carried out in the way it is being done from Munich,” he said.

The Social Democrats (SPD) also lost support, falling to 22.4 percent from 28.3 percent, but remained the biggest party and are likely to ditch the CDU from their current coalition.

The losses for both the biggest parties point to the further fragmentation of Germany’s political landscape, raising the possibility of different coalitions in future.

Fear Policy

On the other hand, the AfD, founded in 2013 as an anti-euro party, was the big winner.

It has in the last year played to voters’ fears about the integration of the roughly one million migrants who entered Germany last year.

“From zero to double digits, that’s unique for Berlin. The grand coalition has been voted out – not yet at the national level, but that will happen next year,” said AfD candidate Georg Pazderski to cheering supporters after the results.

Commentators said the result indicated that the party looked poised to enter the lower house of parliament in 2017.

“With the Berlin result, the AfD has consolidated its position and shown it can appeal to voters across the board – it is now represented in a big city, eastern German states and in more affluent western states like Baden-Wuerttemberg,” said Thomas Jaeger, political scientist at Cologne University.