Merkel Faces Test over Refugee Policy in German Regional Elections
Three German states hold elections for regional parliaments on Sunday which are expected to show strong performance of The Alternative for Germany (AFD), a right-wing group opposed to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy on refugees.
The elections - the first since the refugee crisis began – are seen as a direct challenge to Merkel as voters' concerns about the record migrant influx in Germany may boost support for AfD.
The three states are Baden Wurttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in the west and Saxony-Anhalt in the east. Their combined population is about 17 million, around a fifth of Germany’s population.
Polls suggest the results will be uncomfortable for both Merkel's centre-right conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and her partners in the national government, the centre-left Social Democrats.
AfD, which has campaigned against Merkel's open-door policy on migrants, is expected to enter all three state parliaments, according to polls conducted earlier this week.
A survey for German broadcaster ZDF has puts the AfD on 18% of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt, 11% in Baden-W?rttemberg, 9% in Rhineland-Palatinate.
More than a million people - mostly Syrians - arrived in Germany last year. Merkel’s open-door policy toward refugees has stirred deep divisions both in German society and the CDU as the Chancellor has rejected imposing a cap on new arrivals, favoring instead a plan to distribute refugees across the 28 EU member states.
A failure to win at least two of the three states would be a major setback for Merkel, who is trying to rally support among European leaders to strike a deal with Turkey to curb the migrant influx, Deutsche Welle has commented.
The AfD has said ahead of the vote that it will seek a ban on minarets and the Muslim call to prayer which is often played through loudspeakers throughout the day, according to Bild newspaper. They also plan to seek a ban on halal slaughter saying that they believe the special religious rules are contrary to the German Animal Protection Act.
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