REGIONAL elections in Germany are being viewed as a key test of the German chancellor Angela Merkel’s support among her electorate following an eventful 2015 dominated by the refugee crisis and return of the far right.
Merkel has enjoyed unrivalled popularity throughout her tenure, capitalising on her public perception as a consensus building pragmatist and avowed moderate in a country that has seen remarkable economic growth since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Her reputation has, however, been put to the test by unease and outright fury over the more than one million refugees to enter Europe’s economic powerhouse in 2015 alone. Incidents including the Cologne attacks and a wave of far right protests have left the mild-mannered pastor’s daughter “crossing her fingers” over the outcome on Sunday March 13.
There are three key regional elections taking place today and the new Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is expected to make inroads through its strong anti-immigration platform.
Merkel’s Christian Democrat Party also face stern competition from the Green party and poor results would heap the pressure on her ahead of crucial negotiations with Turkey over the fate of millions of refugees.
Germany has been the most welcoming European country to refugees but has insisted that other countries pull their weight, much to the fury of nations in central and eastern Europe who have closed their borders altogether.