Merkel takes some blame for poor Berlin poll show
German Chancellor Angela Merkel took partial responsibility for her party’s worst-ever performance in a Berlin state election, acknowledging on Monday that her government’s policies at the national level were a factor.
Merkel pledged to work harder to address people’s concerns, particularly migrants. Her Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) received just 17.6 per cent of the votes in the German capital.
“That’s very bitter,” Merkel said, while referring to the drop of almost 6 percentage points that her party suffered.
The result means that Berlin state’s current coalition government, in which the CDU is the junior partner to the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) has no majority going forward. A three-way coalition of Social Democrats, the Green Party and the Left Party is now likely in the capital.
While the Berlin vote was partly seen as a referendum on Merkel’s handling of the migrant crisis, the state government has no control over Germany’s immigration policy. The left-leaning coalition that could now take over the office would likely be more welcoming of refugees than the current government.
Both CDU and SPD, which saw its share of the vote drop 6.7 points to 21.6 per cent, lost voters to the nationalist Alternative for Germany, which has campaigned heavily against immigration. The party, known as AfD, entered its 10th state parliament on Sunday with 14.2 per cent of the votes. The nationalists’ strong result is particularly remarkable because the city of 3.5 million is usually known for its liberal attitude.
“I take responsibility as party leader and chancellor,” Merkel said, alongside her party’s mayoral candidate, Frank Henkel. Merkel edged away from her oft-repeated mantra first uttered during the height of the migrants crisis last year that “we will manage.” She said while she stands by the sentiment, some voters had taken it as a provocation in view of the massive challenge that the country faces integrating hundreds of thousands of migrants.
Merkel added she was prepared to address voters’ concerns about the unprecedented influx of migrants over the past year, but that if people simply did not want Muslim asylum-seekers because of their religion, then that would be counter to her Christian Democratic Party’s basic principles, as well as Germany’s.