Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party has come in third place after the Social Democrats (SPD) and rightwing anti-immigrant and anti-Islam party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in regional elections in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state in northern Germany.
Earlier in the year, the CDU appeared to be the most likely party to be leading the next government in the northern state. For the past 10 years Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was governed by a coalition between the centre-right CDU and centre-left SPD. However, the surging refugee crisis and Angela Merkel’s decision to host 140,910 asylum applicants in 2015, the largest number in Europe, has led to a bitter debate over the wisdom of the strategy.
Deutsche Welle reports the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), is unhappy about Angela Merkel’s refugee policies. The Secretary-General of the CSU, Andreas Scheuer, said: “We need a cap on refugee numbers, expedited repatriation processes, an expansion of the list of nations deemed to be safe countries of origin, and better integration measures,” adding that she felt the rightwing populist, AfD had exploited Merkel’s dwindling support. The Bavarian finance minister Markus Söder also joined the ranks of the disaffected, adding: “It is no longer possible to ignore people’s views on this issue. Berlin needs to change tack.”
The attacks in Cologne at New Year’s Eve 2015, as well as those in Ansbach and Reutlingen this year, has led to calls for a change in Germany’s stance towards refugees. Angela Merkel said the asylum seekers had “shamed the country that welcomed them”, but rejected calls to change her policies, arguing those fleeing persecution and war have a right to be protected. The Chancellor also urged Germans not to give way to those ISIS (Daesh) sympathizers who would seek to change their way of life.
In several European countries, including Austria, Hungary, Poland, Finland and Switzerland, right-wing parties are gaining increasing power in government. Even where right-wing populists haven’t gained such power, groups such as Britain’s UKIP and the French Front National are enjoying record popularity.