BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party suffered a bruising loss in Berlin state elections Sunday while the right-wing populist AfD gained fresh support, capitalising on anger over her open-door refugee policy.
The anti-Islam Alternative for Germany party won over 12 per cent, according to public broadcasters’ projections, in the capital which has long prided itself on being a hip, diverse and multicultural city.
The strong AfD result meant it has now won opposition seats in 10 of Germany’s 16 states, a year ahead of national elections.
Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won just 18 per cent –its worst post-war result in the city, before or after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall – likely spelling the end of its term as junior coalition partner to the Social Democrats (SPD), who won around 22 per cent.
The election in the chronically indebted city-state of 3.5 million people was dominated by local issues including poor public services, crumbling school buildings, late trains and a housing shortage, as well as how to cope with the migrant influx.
Germany took in one million asylum seekers last year, and over 70,000 of them came to Berlin, with thousands still housed in the cavernous hangars of the Nazi-built former Tempelhof airport, once the hub for the Cold War-era Berlin airlift.
Berlin’s SPD Mayor Michael Mueller had dramatically warned before the polls that a strong AfD result would be "seen throughout the world as a sign of the resurgence of the right and of Nazis in Germany". – AFP