German Chancellor Angela Merkel (AFP photo)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU) has suffered a stinging defeat against a nationalist, anti-refugee upstart in elections in a northeastern state.
TV exit polls on Sunday showed that the CDU fell to third place in a Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state election behind the center-left  Social Democratic Party (SPD) and anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
In its worst result ever in the rural state on the Baltic coast, the CDU gained 19 percent of the vote, down from 23 percent in 2011. The AfD, which campaigned hard before elections against Merkel’s policies on refugees, won 21 percent in their first election in the state. The SPD, a dominant party in the state and part of the coalition with the CDU since 2006, won 30.5 percent of the vote, down from 35.6 percent in the last election in 2011. All the results were exit polls broadcast on ARD TV network.
Merkel has faced mounting criticism over her welcoming policy toward refugees entering Germany in their hundreds of thousands last year. The CDU leader has defended her approach, however, and rejected claims that her government has affected spending on Germans by allocating money to the settlement of the asylum seekers.
In an interview published Saturday, Merkel promised to support those who are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, particularly those refugees mostly fleeing conflicts in the Middle East.
“It was the right thing to do that we rose to this humanitarian responsibility and continue to do so… We did not reduce benefits for anyone in Germany as a result of the aid for refugees. In fact, we actually saw social improvements in some areas,” Merkel told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
Other parties also contested the vote in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, including the far-left Left Party and the Greens. The far-right NPD party failed to secure any seats in the regional assembly as it fell below the five-percent threshold for the first time since 2006 with 3.5 percent, down from six percent in 2011.