Merkel’s refugee policy under pressure after shock defeat

Calls for policy change after AfD win in chancellor’s home turf of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Angela Merkel faces a political fight to win back support for her controversial refugee policy following the success of the anti-immigration right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) in regional elections on the chancellor's home turf.

The German chancellor suffered a humiliating defeat on Sunday when the triumphant AfD pushed the chancellor's centre-right Christian Democrats into third place in the vote in rural Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

She faces renewed calls to change her refugee policy from both sides of her coalition – conservatives in her CDU/CSU bloc and her social democrat coalition partner.

Televised statement

Dr Merkel, who is in



for the G20 summit and was due to make a televised statement later on Monday, is widely expected to stick to her guns and defend the decisions that have brought more than a million refugees to Germany since early 2015.

But she will struggle to avoid the political shock of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern result, which daily newspaper Bild described as the "Meck-Pomm horror".

The result in the region where the chancellor has her parliamentary seat marks a new low in Ms Merkel’s struggle to retain public backing for her refugee policy. Protesting voters have abandoned the mainstream parties in droves and turned the AfD into Germany’s most successful right-wing party since the second World War.

Raised turnout

The AfD, which was formed in 2013, took 20.8 per cent of the vote for the Meckelnburg-Vorpommern state legislature. It won support from other parties and attracted those who usually do not vote, helping to raise the turnout from 51.5 per cent to 61 per cent.

The CDU’s share of the vote, meanwhile, fell from 23 per cent in 2011 to 19 per cent, its worst result yet in the state. The SPD fared somewhat better than had been predicted but still plunged from 35.6 per cent to 30.6 per cent.

AfD leader Frauke Petry said the coalition partners were damaging themselves by refusing to listen to the public. "Ms Merkel is bringing herself down," she said. Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016