merkel braces for populist gains in berlin elections
Last Updated : GMT 09:07:40
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Last Updated : GMT 09:07:40
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Merkel braces for populist gains in Berlin elections

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Egypt Today, egypt today Merkel braces for populist gains in Berlin elections

Top candidate of Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Mayor of Berlin Michael Mueller, left, and his wife Claudia wait to cast their votes at the polling station during Berlin state election
Berlin - Arab Today

German voters went to the polls Sunday in Berlin regional elections with the anti-immigration AfD party hoping to capitalize on anger against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcome to refugees.
The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany has mobilized xenophobic and anti-Islam sentiment to win seats in nine of the country’s 16 state assemblies and is especially popular in the ex-communist east.
Fresh gains for the AfD — particularly in hip and multicultural Berlin, where it has been polling up to 14 percent — would spell another setback for Merkel, a year ahead of national elections.
It would prove that the protest party “doesn’t just benefit from discontent in rural areas but can establish itself ... in a city of millions that is known for its open lifestyle,” said the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper.
Germany took in one million asylum seekers last year, and over 70,000 of them came to Berlin, with many housed in the cavernous hangars of the Nazi-built former Tempelhof airport, once the hub for the Cold War-era Berlin airlift.
Merkel — who was booed this week by right-wing activists shouting “get lost” — later conceded it was hard to reach the “protest voters” who have turned their backs on mainstream parties.
The AfD, breaking a taboo in post-war German politics, has an openly anti-immigration platform, similar to France’s National Front or far-right populists in Austria and the Netherlands.
Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller of the Social Democrats (SPD) dramatically warned on the eve of the election that a strong AfD result would be “seen throughout the world as a sign of the resurgence of the right and of Nazis in Germany.”
Polls in Berlin opened at 0600 GMT and were to close at 1600 GMT, with some 2.5 million eligible voters to chose a new assembly. With sunny skies, turnout around noon looked to be higher than in 2011, when it reached 60 percent.
Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) have a national majority — but in the city-state of Berlin they serve as junior coalition partner to Mueller’s SPD, traditionally the strongest party in the city of 3.5 million.
As Mueller has rejected a new coalition with the CDU, Merkel’s party may be cast out of the Berlin government altogether with the SPD seen likely to team up with the ecologist Greens and the far-left Die Linke party.
This would heap further pressure on Merkel “to explain her political strategy,” said Gero Neugebauer of Berlin’s Free University.
“The more fearful within her party might be increasingly scared of losing power in 2017,” he told the Handelsblatt business daily.
Another analyst, Kai Arzheimer of Mainz University, also predicted tensions would rise between the CDU and its Bavarian sister party the CSU, but he stressed the CDU was unlikely to change its top candidate, Merkel.
“To ask this question one year before federal elections would be suicidal, especially since in the CDU there is no credible successor,” he said.

Source: Arab News

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merkel braces for populist gains in berlin elections merkel braces for populist gains in berlin elections



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