• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Merkel to stick to refugee policy despite election defeat
Refugees cross a river from Greece into Macedonia. Photo: DPA

Merkel to stick to refugee policy despite election defeat

AFP · 14 Mar 2016, 18:05

Published: 14 Mar 2016 18:05 GMT+01:00

Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was at the receiving end of voter anger, suffering defeats in two out of three states in Sunday's elections - including traditional stronghold Baden-Württemberg.

The stinging result for the conservative CDU was accompanied by a surge in backing for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which had sparked outrage by suggesting police may have to shoot at migrants to stop them entering the country.

The elections were the biggest since Germany registered a record influx of refugees that reached 1.1 million in 2015, and largely regarded as a referendum on Merkel's decision to open the doors to people fleeing war.

The mass-circulation Bild newspaper described it as a "day of horror" for Merkel, as calls multiplied for her to change tack.

But her spokesman shot that down.

"The federal government will stay its refugee policy course, fully determined, at home and abroad," the spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told a news briefing.

"The goal must be a common, sustainable European solution that leads to a tangible reduction of the number of refugees in all (EU) member states."

Seibert said Merkel would continue to pursue a strategy of working to bolster the security of the EU's external borders and cooperating with Turkey to reduce refugee flows.

The German leader herself, who has consistently refused to impose a cap on refugee arrivals, was expected to give her first reaction to the polls in the early afternoon.

'Makes no sense'

While they have no direct impact on her chancellorship, the regional polls in the southwestern states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate as well as Saxony-Anhalt in the east served as a key test ahead of general elections in 2017.

The results could also strengthen the hand of her adversaries, including strident critics in the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the CSU.

The main reason for the poor CDU showing "is the refugee policy. It makes no sense at all," CSU chief Horst Seehofer said at a party meeting on Monday.

Demanding changes, Seehofer said: "It can't be that after such an election result, the answer to the electorate is: everything will go on as before."

Merkel also risks isolation at a meeting of EU leaders opening Thursday, when they will seek to finalise a deal with Turkey on stemming the migrant influx.

The chancellor has attacked a decision by Balkan states to close their borders to refugees, but Bavarian daily Nuernberger Nachrichten noted that "she is benefiting more than anyone from the border closures that she is criticising".

"After this election, Merkel must, more than ever, give an explanation."

'Black Sunday'

The German press said the results delivered a clear message to Merkel.

Spiegel Online described it as "Black Sunday for the CDU".

"Merkel will now have to live with the accusation that she has allowed the AfD to establish itself to the right of the CDU," Spiegel said in an editorial.

Story continues below…

For most of the last decade, Merkel enjoyed stellar popularity ratings as she pushed middle-ground policies which helped her party capture ground from the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). But critics say it has left her conservatives' right flank exposed.

In Sunday's vote, the AfD captured seats in all three states and gained as much as one in four votes in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, emerging as the second biggest party there.

Austria's far-right Freedom Party hailed the AfD's success as a win against the "EU juggernaut".

Nevertheless, the irony is that Sunday's polls showed there is no obvious successor to Merkel, as the CDU's biggest mainstream challenger and junior coalition partner -- the SPD -- emerged weakened in two out of three states where it came in behind AfD.

And Julia Kloeckner, touted previously as a possible CDU successor to Merkel, failed to lift the party to a win in Rhineland-Palatinate with a campaign that challenged Berlin's line on asylum policy.

Even Seehofer acknowledged that Merkel was still the right chancellor, while the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung questioned who had the clout to force her to reverse her stance on refugees.

"The party has less choice than ever" for its succession, it noted.

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

Today's headlines
Brexit vote
Merkel: Britain can’t cherry-pick Brexit terms
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that the EU could survive a Brexit and warned Britain the union would not tolerate "cherry-picking" in upcoming negotiations on their future relations.

This film makes Darmstadt look more romantic than Paris
The Russian Orthodox Church in Darmstadt. Source: City, Light and Movement.

Not quite sure where Darmstadt is? A short film shot by a Syrian refugee will have you rushing to locate it on a map.

VW agrees to $14.7 bn payout in US emissions probe
Photo: DPA

Volkswagen has agreed to pay out $14.7 billion in a settlement with US authorities and car owners in the probe over its emissions-cheating diesel-powered cars, court documents showed Tuesday.

Brexit vote
Left leader calls for German referendum on EU deals
Left Party leader Sahra Wagenknecht. Photo: DPA.

The left-wing leader of the official opposition party in Germany said that it’s time the German people also have a say on what goes on in Brussels.

Teacher overpaid quarter of a million euros. No one notices
Photo: DPA

The Düsseldorf teacher was paid a full-time salary for six years, despite only working part time.

Euro 2016
Germans react with glee to England’s Iceland humiliation
Distraught England players after Iceland defeat. photo: DPA

Still upset by their British brothers voting for Brexit, Germans expressed an overwhelming sense of Schadenfreude at England's Euro 2016 exit.

Cleaning spray sets off shock explosion in Frankfurt cafe
Photo: Frankfurt fire department.

Four people have been injured in an explosion at a cafe in a Frankfurt shopping district. The culprit: cleaning products.

Brexit vote
Merkel vows to create 'new impulse' for EU
Chancellor Angela Merkel with French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The leaders of Germany, France and Italy vowed on Monday "a new impulse" for the EU as it reels from Brexit.

Police investigate after 'Nazi knifeman' threatens President
Demonstrators protest against the visit of President Joachim Gauck. Photo: DPA.

German President Joachim Gauck was confronted by some aggressive right-wing extremists during an official weekend visit, including one man carrying a knife.

Telekom warns all users to change passwords after scam
Photo: DPA.

German giant Deutsche Telekom is warning customers to change their passwords after finding that up to 120,000 customers' data was being sold on the black market.

Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
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
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
US expats: Taxes are due June 15th
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
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
7,830
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd