The conservative party of Angela Merkel Sunday recorded the worst result in its history for the regional elections in Berlin, in a climate of growing discontent about immigration which continues to benefit the populist right.
This is the second consecutive electoral setback in two weeks at a regional ballot for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, beaten in early September by the anti-migrant movement and anti-Islam Alternative for the Germany (AFD) in the northeast of the country. And that one year of the next parliamentary elections.
In Berlin, the CDU received only about 18% of the vote, down more than 5 points from the last poll in 2011. The AFD secured its place in the local parliament of the German capital with over 12% of the vote, according to projections of the public television channels.
Never in the history of Berlin — including the history of West Berlin after the Second World war and that of the reunited city after the fall of the Berlin Wall — had the CDU experienced such a debacle. The poor showing of the CDU in Berlin will most likely return the party to the opposition bench in the city of 3.5 million, while it was so far part of a coalition government formed with the social Democrats.
The social Democratic party (SPD) in Berlin also suffered heavy losses but remains the largest party in the city with just under 23% of the votes. Although weakened, this should allow the current mayor, Michael Müller, member of the party, to be reappointed.
He now favors a left coalition with environmentalists, credited to a little over 16% of the vote, and the radical left Die Linke, another protest party in Germany from the former Communist party of East Germany, which collects a similar percentage of the votes.
The irruption of the populist right in the Berlin regional parliament has symbolic value: a cosmopolitan metropolis, connected and open to the world, the German capital with the region-state status has so far been able to resist populist tendencies.
The mayor had sought to dramatize the issues during the campaign, warning that a score above 10% for the AFD would be “interpreted around the world as a sign of a rebirth of the extreme right and the Nazis in Germany.”
Although the CDU has been traditionally weak for the past 15 years in Berlin, its new retreat just further complicates the task of Chancellor Merkel, who has lately been criticized by her own political family for her management of the migrant crisis.