German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party was beaten into third place by the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany in a state election in her political homeland, preliminary results showed, signalling an intensifying backlash against her open-border refugee policy.
Merkel's Christian Democrats took 19.8 per cent in the Baltic coast state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania today, while Alternative for Germany, or AfD, had 21.4 per cent, according to ZDF results based on partially counted ballots.
"This is a result to make us proud," Leif-Erik Holm, the AfD's candidate for state premier, said on ARD. "The state assembly finally has an opposition party again."
The Social Democrats, who have governed the state since 1998, took 30.2 per cent for the most votes, giving them the first shot at forming the next state government. They have ruled the state in a coalition with Merkel's CDU for the past decade.
The result is the first time the AfD has defeated Merkel's party in a state election. The AfD campaigned against her immigration policy, as well as opposing the transition to renewable energy and arguing against sanctions on Russia.
"Whoever votes for the AfD is casting a protest vote," said Michael Grosse-Broemer, CDU chief whip in the Lower House of Parliament in Berlin. "The best response is to point out that the policy we make in Berlin isn't all bad," he said, citing a strong economy and booming employment