AFTER more than a decade in power Angela Merkel may be facing her greatest challenge yet in next year’s general election following her party’s ignominious defeat in Sunday’s regional elections.
The German chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) came third behind the Social Democrats in her Mecklenburg-Vorpommern constituency and, more notably, anti-immigration insurgents Alterative for Germany (AfD).
Early projections showing the CDU on 19 per cent of the vote suggest that the party, which currently shares local power with the Social Democrats, was on track for its worst ever result in the eastern state.
While Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has a population of just 1.6 million, the regional election came loaded with symbolism and was largely viewed through the prism of Merkel’s immigration policies which have sown division across the country.
With an estimated 20.9 per cent of the vote AfD look on course to become a major force in national politics and will now be represented in nine state parliaments, having successfully bulldozed through local politics on a platform of abolishing Merkel’s pro-refugee stance.
Local AfD candidate Leif-Erik Holm was succinct in his summary of the day: “The icing on the cake is that we have left Merkel’s CDU behind us,” he said. “Maybe that is the beginning of the end of Merkel’s time as chancellor.”
Talking heads will now turn to regional elections in Berlin on September 18 ahead of the first federal elections since 2013, set to take place between August and October next year.