BADEN-WüRTTEMBERG, Germany, March 13 (UPI) — German Chancellor Angela’ Merkel’s political party suffered two defeats in regional elections Sunday, which were no surprise given voter concerns over her open-door immigration policy that allowed more than 1 million migrants to flow in to Germany in 2015.
The polls indicate the Christian Democratic Union lost support in both Baden-Wuerettemberg and Rhineland Palatinate, but remain the largest party in Saxony-Anhalt, the BBC reported.
The anti-migrant Alternative for Deutschland Party achieved gains in all three states, the exit polls indicate.
Many saw these regional elections as a test of support for the chancellor because of her migrant-accommodating policy.
More than 12 million Germans were eligible to vote Sunday to elect new regional parliaments in three states and voters’ concerns about the record migrant influx could have played into the populist AFD Party’s favor, Deutsche Welle reported.
The policy has proven divisive among both the German public and within Merkel’s CDU Party.
She has rejected measures such as imposing a cap on new arrivals, instead favoring a plan to distribute refugees across the 28 European Union member states.
Speaking at a rally in the Baden-Wuttermberg town of Haigerloch ahead of the elections, Merkel defended her position, stressing the need to reduce the number of refugees and saying new arrivals had a duty to integrate themselves in to German society.
“We expect refugees to accept these offers [of integration],” she said. “This is an obligation and not an option.”
The anti-immigration AFD Party was expected to make gains amid the unease, theBBC reported.
Represented in five of Germany’s 16 regional parliaments, the AFD has campaigned using slogans such as “Secure the borders” and “Stop the asylum chaos.”
Still, polls predict Merkel’s CDU will remain the biggest party in Saxony-Anhalt in the east of the country.
If the exit polls prove accurate, her party will be defeated in Baden-Wuerttemberg, where it is the largest party. Exit polls there indicate the CDU was defeated by the Greens.
Polls put the AFD’s support up to 19 percent in Saxony-Anhalt, an area where the CDU and the Social Democrats now govern together as a coalition.
If the AFD performs as well as the polls indicate, the coalition partners may have to team up with a third party to assemble a majority.
The controversy surrounding Merkel’s immigration policy has prompted some to call for her to step down.
Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Saturday, though, that gains for the AFD would not change Germany’s stance on immigration.
“There is a clear position that we stand by: humanity and solidarity. We will not change our position now,” he said.
Still, about 2,000 right-wing demonstrators carried German flags in Berlin on Saturday, chanting “Merkel must go!” and “We are the people!”