2016-03-13 18:30:00

Germany goes to polls in key regional elections

(Vatican Radio) Three states in Germany have been voting Sunday in regional elections and first indications are that nationalists performed strongly, amid mounting unease over chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal approach to Europe's biggest refugee crisis, since World War Two. The elections were seen as a test for next year's general elections.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

With voting counting underway, first indications were that Chancellor Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union and her partners in the national government, the center-left Social Democrats, have been punished.

They faced voter anger over Merkel's decision last year to open Germany’s borders to refugees fleeing war in especially Syria.

Elections were taking place in three crucial states, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in the west and
Saxony-Anhalt in the east.

Polls suggested that the three-year-old anti-migration Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, would easily enter the three states with as much as a fifth of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt.


Afd party leader Frauke Petry has reportedly said that it should be possible to shoot at refugees at the border if necessary.
She has condemned Merkel's 'Willkommenskultur' or the welcoming of refugees, as a new kind of 'Willkommens-Diktatur', or dictatorship.

Merkel's "policy is aimed at give up our own rules and our own culture for another culture which does not fit in our democracy," she said. In the end, Petry added, "we have to decide whether Muslims should be allowed to further influence us. We don't want that and the people don't want that for obvious reasons."   

Yet, at a campaign rally in Baden-Wuerttemberg Merkel tried to defend her policies that included accepting more than a million refugees last year alone.

In power for over a decade, she told supporters that in people in need have the right for protection and the AfD was not the answer as her party and its partners will manage the situation. 


"Everyone who wants quick and constructive decisions should choose her Christen-Democratic Union," she said, adding "that this is also a trade mark on Sunday."

Yet voters have mixed feelings about her policies. "Refugees can not come here in these huge numbers," a man said. A woman agreed saying: "Merkel didn't care about laws and about borders of the [EU's passport- free] Schengen zone."

Despite Sunday's expected setback, an opinion poll showed last week that her personal popularity was at its highest level this year. 

Sunday’s vote was seen as a test where the parties stand ahead of a general election in 2017.


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