• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Merkel in for drubbing as populists eye poll surge
Pre-poll surveys show that support for the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) was steadily gaining momentum and expected to record a surge in backing in all three states. Photo: DPA

Merkel in for drubbing as populists eye poll surge

AFP · 13 Mar 2016, 09:20

Published: 13 Mar 2016 09:20 GMT+01:00

More than 12 million voters are electing three new regional parliaments for the southwestern states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, as well as eastern Saxony-Anhalt in the so-called Super Sunday polls.

The elections are the biggest since a record influx of refugees to Germany, and are largely billed as a referendum on Merkel's decision to open the country's doors to people fleeing war.

"These elections are very important... as they will serve as a litmus test for the government's disputed policy" on refugees, Duesseldorf University political scientist Jens Walther told AFP ahead of the polls.

Surveys in the run-up to the vote show that support for the CDU and its junior coalition partner Social Democratic Party (SPD) dropping while the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) was steadily gaining momentum and expected to record a surge in backing in all three states.

Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was bracing for one of its poorest showings in years, particularly in its traditional stronghold of Baden-Wuerttemberg, with a poll published late Thursday by ZDF public television showing support plummeting by 10 percentage points to 29 percent -- putting it for the first time behind the Greens -- while the AfD snatched 11 percent.

Guido Wolf, the CDU's leading candidate in the southwest, has described Sunday's as the "most difficult election campaign" the party has had to run.

In Rhineland-Palatinate, where the fortunes of the CDU had been rising with the latest poll giving it 35 percent, the party is seen struggling to knock the Social Democratic Party, scoring 36 percent, off from the top of the list. The AfD meanwhile was hoping to crack the 10 percent mark.

In Saxony-Anhalt, where the CDU still commands a large lead in the poll with 32 percent, AfD has a stunning 18 percent, at the heels of the second-placed Left Party, on 21 percent.

Merkel has been under intense pressure to change course and shut Germany's doors after 1.1 million refugees -- many of them Syrians -- arrived in Europe's biggest economy last year alone.

But she has resolutely refused to impose a cap on arrivals, insisting instead on common European action that includes distributing refugees among the EU's 28 member states.

As dissent grew over her stance, AfD has capitalised on the darkening mood.

Founded in 2013 as an anti-euro party, AfD has since morphed into one that sparked a storm in January after suggesting police may have to shoot at migrants at the borders.

Although the upstart party has seats in five regional parliaments and is represented in the European Parliament, it has so far made its biggest gains in former communist eastern states that still lag western Germany in jobs and prosperity.

But its inroads into western states have sparked alarm in a Germany mindful of its Nazi past.

Story continues below…

With an eye on the upcoming polls, Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel warned voters that "we have a lot to lose if we deal carelessly with social stability and democracy".

Merkel herself described AfD as a "party that does not bring society together and offers no appropriate solutions to problems, but only stokes prejudices and divisions".

She has also shrugged them off as a temporary diversion.

"As we progress step by step on the question of refugees, our policies will show results. And I'm convinced that from there, the support that AfD is enjoying right now will drop off," she told Mitteldeutsche Zeitung in an interview.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Today's headlines
Germany says 'won't let anyone take Europe from us'
Steinmeier called the European Union “a successful project of peace and stability”. Photo: DPA

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Saturday that the EU would weather the shock of the British vote to leave the union as he convened crisis talks.

Brexit vote
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
A sign in Berlin's tech giant and startup-building company Rocket Internet. Photo: DPA.

London is currently thought of as the main hub for startups in Europe, but that will all turn around when the UK leaves the EU, tech industry experts say.

Brexit vote - Analysis
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
British Leave campaigners celebrate Brexit result. Photo: DPA

Britain leaving the EU means trouble ahead for Germany - and its hardest task will be convincing the Brits to drop a self-defeating ideology, a leading foreign policy expert told The Local.

How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Photo: DPA.

Considering a change of passport after the UK's vote to ditch the EU? Here’s how to do it.

Germany makes fracking verboten
A sign in North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA.

German lawmakers approved a law that essentially bans fracking, ending years of dispute over the controversial technology to release oil and gas locked deep underground.

Brexit vote
German far right 'cries for joy' after UK votes to leave EU
Left to right: AfD's Beatrix von Storch and Frauke Petry. Photo: DPA

The far-right AfD party called for a "new Europe" and the resignation of the EU's top two politicians in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Brexit vote
Merkel: Brexit has cut into European unity
Angela Merkel at a press conference after the Brexit vote on Friday. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that the UK's decision to leave the EU has created a "cut in Europe" and the project of European unity.

Couple copulating on bridge shut down Autobahn
Kaiserlei Bridge in Frankfurt. Photo: Dontworry / Wikimedia Commons.

It was a highly unusual choice of location for a romantic rendezvous, police in Frankfurt point out.

Brexit vote
Germany: Brexit vote is a 'sad day for Europe'
A British flag along with other flags of European Union member countries flies in front of the European Council building in Strasbourg, France. Photo: EPA.

Top German leaders declared that it was a "sad day for Europe" after British voters opted to leave the European Union.

Viernheim hostage-taker wasn't carrying lethal weapon
A police officer stands guard in front of the cinema in Viernheim. Photo: DPA

The 19-year-old German man who took over a dozen people hostage in a cinema in western Germany on Thursday was carrying replica weapons, prosecutors have confirmed.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
US expats: Taxes are due June 15th
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Gallery
7 photos which show the aftermath of Bavaria's Autobahn bridge collapse
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sport
How to sound like an expert on German football this summer
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
Features
6 reasons Germany's summer is unbeatable for thrill-seekers
National
The future belongs to these 10 German regions
Society
How pictures of footballers on chocolates made Pegida really mad
Health
New father's tragic herpes warning touches 1000s online
National
Bayer's Monsanto takeover would be 'diabolical': environmentalists
7,902
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd