Germany recently faced elections at a regional level this weekend. Their result is relevant at a local level of course. But they are important as well, in view of the general elections of 2017.
It looks like Germany’s immigration policy was the decisive factor regarding the score that the Christian Democratic Union registered at the polls.
The Christian Democratic Union is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party. Many were looking at the election results to see how Germans really feel about their country’s immigration policy. And whether Merkel’s welcoming attitude would have an impact on the score brought home by her party.
Disappointing Score for the CDU
The elections were viewed by analysts not just as an election but as a referendum regarding Merkel’s immigration policy. The refugee crisis has taken a toll on the country. But it has also taken a political toll on the CDU, the largest political party in Germany.
Preliminary results show that the Social Democratic Party (SDP) won with 30.6% of the vote. Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) took 20.8% of the vote. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) got 19% of the vote.
In the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the German chancellor’s home state, the CDU came in third. Coming in second was Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). The front-runner was the Social Democratic Party, suggest exit polls.
In an interview this Monday, the party leader of the AfD, Frauke Petry interpreted the success of her party in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern as a defeat for Angela Merkel.
On Monday Merkel admitted that the decisions made on immigration had a role in the result but remained steadfast in saying that those decisions were the right ones to make.
She admitted that “many people do not have our confidence regarding the refugee question.”
The Future Political Scene in Germany
Analysts believe that Merkel still a very good chance of winning the general elections in 2017. The success of that depends on the Social Democratic Party. Right now the two political parties are in a governing coalition. Political success for the CDU depends on being able to keep the coalition going.
The party that gets a lot of attention is Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). New on the political scene and on the ascent, it is known for its right-wing messages.
The AfD was founded in April 2013. It was established by academics that were displeased with the way Merkel was handling the Eurozone crisis. It happened at the time that Greece was receiving bailouts from the EU. More recently, the AfD has become more nationalistic. It strongly opposes raising immigration levels, particularly regarding immigrants from Muslim countries.
The AfD performed strongly in other regional elections as well. It got 24% in Saxony-Anhalt, coming in a strong second. But it is unlikely that it can govern outside of a coalition.
AfD’s populist, anti-immigrant message is similar to that of other political parties in Europe. It is similar to the message that resonated in the United Kingdom at the time of the Brexit vote. It also has similarities to the message of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in the United States.