BERLIN, Sept. 5 (UPI) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the blame for her party’s surprising loss in her home state Sunday, acknowledging today it was tied to her controversial immigration policy in the country.
The Christian Democratic Union lost state legislative elections in Merkel’s political home of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, coming in third behind the three-year-old far-right Alternative für Deutschland.
The Social Democratic Party, part of Merkel’s coalition government in Germany, came in first in the election. But the loss of Merkel’s center-right party was seen as a direct response of Germans’ concern about large influx of Syrian and other refugees the country has accepted in the last year.
Merkel, who is at the Group of 20 meetings in China, told reporters she was dissatisfied with the outcome of the elections, but that clearly some people in the country are unsure about how she and her party are handling issues there — most notably the immigration situation.
“Many people do not have our confidence regarding the refugee question,” Merkel said, adding that while she stands behind her government’s policies on how to handle the refugees, “we still have to do a lot to regain our [party’s] confidence.”
Alternative für Deutschland, founded in 2013 by Germans unhappy with Merkel’s handling of economic issues in the European Union, has since been made stronger by growing nationalistic concerns tied to the refugee situation.
“That [election] is a slap in the face for Ms. Merkel,” said Frauke Petry, the leader of Alternative für Deutschland. “That is a slap for the chancellor in her home state.”
In the election, the Social Democrat party took about 30 percent of the vote and Alternative für Deutschland beat the Christian Democratic Union by two points, 21 percent to 19 percent. The narrow victory was called a “shot across the bow” at Merkel based on not just immigration, but also internal economics and politics.
Sunday’s election is said to have brought out voters who did not participate the last time around, and the 1.3 million voters in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern include the highest youth unemployment rate in Germany, high poverty and already lean toward the political right, making the area rife for a loss.