Tue, Sep 26, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Merkel wins re-election, but faces double headache

AFP, BERLIN

Workers remove an election poster featuring a photograph of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin yesterday.

Photo: AP / Wolfgang Kumm / DPA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday huddled with her party after winning a fourth term with a far weaker score, facing the double headache of an emboldened nationalist opposition party and thorny coalition talks.

If the campaign was widely decried as boring, its outcome was a bombshell — a populist hard-right surge poached votes from Merkel’s conservatives as well as the center-left Social Democrats, handing both their worst results in decades.

“A nightmare victory for Merkel,” Germany’s top-selling daily Bild said. “The governing parties and the chancellor squandered the people’s faith in them.”

After 12 years in power and running on a promise of stability and economic strength, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CSU) bloc scored 33 percent, according to the final results, against 20.5 percent for the Social Democrats under challenger Martin Schulz, who pledged to go into the opposition.

The election marked a breakthrough for the anti-Muslim Alternative for Germany (AfD), which with 12.6 percent became the third-strongest party and vowed to “go after” Merkel over her migrant and refugee policy.

News weekly Der Spiegel said that Merkel had no one but herself to blame for the bruising she got from voters.

The entry of about 90 hard-right nationalist members of parliament breaks a taboo in post-World War II Germany.

“We will take our country back,” said the AfD’s Alexander Gauland, who has urged Germans to be proud of their war veterans and said a government official who is of Turkish origin should be “dumped in Anatolia.”

However, just hours after its triumph, the party’s long-simmering infighting between radical and more moderate forces spilled out into the open at a dramatic morning news conference.

AfD coleader Frauke Petry stunned her colleagues by saying she would not join the party’s parliamentary group and would serve as an independent lawmaker. She then abruptly left the room in a move Gauland criticized as “excessively feisty.”

All other political parties have ruled out working with the AfD, whose leaders call Merkel a “traitor” for allowing in more than 1 million asylum seekers since the height of the refugee influx in 2015.

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