• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Voters set to punish Merkel at key 'Super Sunday' election
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

Voters set to punish Merkel at key 'Super Sunday' election

AFP · 9 Mar 2016, 08:25

Published: 09 Mar 2016 08:25 GMT+01:00

More than 12 million voters are due to elect 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 disgruntled voters are expected to seize on the opportunity to hit the ruling coalition where it hurts.

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

Surveys in the run-up to the polls have shown Alternative for Germany (AfD) steadily gaining momentum, with the latest published Monday by Bild daily showing backing reaching double-digit levels in all three states.

Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was meanwhile bracing for a poor showing, particularly in its traditional stronghold of Baden-Württemberg, with the Bild poll showing support sliding by 10.5 percentage points to 28.5 percent -- putting it for the first time behind the Greens, while the AfD snatched 12.5 percent.

"These are numbers that really hit us," said Guido Wolf, the CDU's leading candidate in the southwest, adding that Sunday's was the "most difficult election campaign" the party has had to run.

In Rhineland-Palatinate where the fortunes of the CDU had been rising, leading candidate Julia Klöckner -- who some believe could be Merkel's successor -- is expected only to help the party to a tie with the Social Democratic Party (SPD), at 35 percent.

In Saxony-Anhalt, where the CDU still has a large lead in the Bild poll with 29 percent, AfD has a stunning 19 percent that almost draws it equal with the second placed Left Party, on 20 percent.

'A lot to lose’

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.

Barely a week before the polls, Merkel told activists to take heart despite falling support for the party, saying: "It will pay off in the end."

But public opinion towards her stance was divided, and AfD has capitalised on the darkening mood.

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

In what could be a preview of Sunday's polls, local election results published Monday in Hesse show support for AfD reaching 13.2 percent, propelling it to become the third biggest party in the western state.

Story continues below…

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.

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", while Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble branded them a "shame for Germany".

Some 142 civic groups, including police unions, Jewish and Muslim organisations and aid groups, also published a joint appeal urging voters to turn up at the polls as a show of strength "against all forms of hate, racism, prejudices or violence".

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

Today's headlines
Germany sees 'turning point' in birth rate decline
Children at a a kindergarten in Swabia. Photo: Nikolaus Lenau/Flickr

Is Germany's three-decade decline in birth rate now over?

Trump protesters rebuild and tear down 'Berlin Wall'
The 'Stop Trump' protest at the Brandenburg Gate. Photo: DPA.

US expats gathered at the Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate on Friday "rebuild" the Berlin Wall and protest US presidential candidate Donald Trump's own proposed wall-building.

Accusation of sexism within Merkel's party creates uproar
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Chancellor Angela Merkel, two leading women in the CDU party. Photo: DPA.

A young politician from the ranks of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has caused a storm by suggesting that the party is institutionally sexist.

EasyJet 'in talks to buy German airline' to duck Brexit
Photo: DPA

EasyJet is in talks to acquire TUIfly, a board member of the German carrier said Friday, as the British no-frills airline looks for ways to keep flying freely within the EU after Britain quits the bloc.

Symbols of migrant plight to go on show in Bonn museum
Photo: DPA

A people smugglers' car, a dinghy and a life jacket are among items related to Europe's migration crisis due to go on display at a German museum.

Brexit
Green party demand 'quick and easy' citizenship for Brits
Photo: DPA

The Green party has called for Brits living in Germany to be offered a painless path to obtaining dual citizenship as to "reassure them over the future".

Berlin the new London? 10m2 flat to rent for €750 a month
Photo: Immonet.de.

This shoebox apartment in the gentrified Bergmann-Kiez neighbourhood may be a sign that the tides are turning for Berlin’s comparatively cheap housing market.

Far-right AfD reach record high in national poll
AfD leader Frauke Petry. Photo: DPA.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) was backed by 16 percent of respondents in a new poll, which was a new high for the upstart populist party.

Bautzen youth beat up pensioner in racist attack
Photo: DPA

In the Saxon town of Bautzen, which has become a byword for racism and anti-migrant sentiment, two youths have attacked a 72-year-old man, shouting 'foreigners out'.

German lawmakers ratify landmark Paris climate accord
The German parliament (Bundestag). Photo: DPA.

Germany's lower of house of parliament on Thursday ratified the Paris agreement on climate change, following in the footsteps of 60 other countries that have committed to the landmark agreement designed to stem the planet's rising temperatures.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
5,753
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd