• 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
Analysis
How Merkel reacts to crises better than other leaders
Photo: DPA

It is of critical importance for a country how a leader chooses to react to an act of terrorism. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cool head sets an example for the rest of the country.

Turkey demands Germany extradite Gülen supporters
Fethullah Gülen. Photo: DPA

Ankara called on Germany on Thursday to extradite supporters of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of plotting a failed coup earlier this month.

German police raid 'hotbed of radicalization'
Police entering one of the residences. Photo: DPA

A mosque and eight residences were searched.

Germany boasts Europe's best value beaches
This beach just got named Europe's cheapest. Do you know where it is? Photo: DPA

Forget Mallorca or the Costa del Sol - the best beach bargains can be found in Germany. But where?

After rampages, Merkel says again: Wir schaffen das
Photo: DPA

Speaking for the first time after a Syrian refugee blew himself up in southern Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed her commitment to helping refugees on Thursday.

The Local List
Germany's five most mind-boggling conspiracy theories
What's the point of this mysterious tower at Tempelhof Airport? Photo: DPA.

Think that wacky paranoid types only exist in the USA? Here’s a few crazy German conspiracies to prove you wrong.

Munich shooting
Gunman's friend arrested for 'planning school attack'
File photo: DPA

Police found chemicals and instructions for making explosives, as well as evacuation plans of his school in the youth's possession.

Bremen mall evacuated due to escaped psychiatric patient
Police outside the mall. Photo: DPA

The man had reportedly made worrying statements relating to Isis and last week's shooting in Munich.

German ambassador to Turkey left out in cold
Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: DPA

The Turkish government has been giving German ambassador Martin Erdmann the cold shoulder for weeks, after German parliamentarians passed a bill recognizing the Armenian genocide.

Ansbach suicide bomber was interviewed by Bulgarian TV
Photo: DPA

A Syrian who blew himself up outside a German music festival at the weekend was interviewed twice by Bulgarian television while living there in 2013, footage showed on Wednesday.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
DPA
Gallery
IN PICTURES: How Munich responded to shooting spree
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
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
11,042
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd