Weekend Elections

Merkel Braces for her Waterloo

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers her keynote speech during the Christain Democratic Union (CDU) politial Ash Wednesday meeting in Volkmarsen, Germany February 29, 2016. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy face first electoral test.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Ms. Merkel has insisted that her refugee policy will work out in the end. However, the electorate is yet to be convinced and her Christian Democrats are likely to lose support on Sunday.

  • Facts


    • Saxony-Anhalt, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate go to the polls in state elections on March 13.
    • The CDU is likely to hold onto the Saxony-Anhalt but it may fail to regain the other two western states.
    • Ms. Merkel’s approval ratings have increased by 2 points to 50 percent.
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They call it “Super Sunday,” but for Angela Merkel this weekend’s three regional elections are likely to be anything but super.

A total of 12 million voters in three states are going to the polls on Sunday to elect their regional parliaments. And with the refugee crisis dominating the political agenda, the chancellor’s center-right Christian Democrats are in for something of a drubbing.

Ms. Merkel and her party are bracing themselves for a bruising encounter with an electorate frustrated with the government’s handling of the refugee crisis.

While the CDU may not actually lose control of any states, they are increasingly unlikely to recapture two that they had pinned their hopes on. Furthermore their vote is undoubtedly going to be eroded considerably, largely due to the rise of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany.

Nationally the CDU is polling at 35 percent, down from a peak of 41 percent at the last election in 2013, while the upstart AfD is polling at around 10 percent.


merkel afp tobias schwarz march 9
Angela Merkel on March 9 at the German chancellery in Berlin. Ms. Merkel’s ruling conservatives may take a hit in weekend elections, but she is likely to emerge unscathed. Source: AFP / Tobias Schwarz


Sunday’s trio of elections will be the first time the voters have had a say since the massive influx of refugees began late last summer, which led to over 1 million people arriving in the country in just one year. And while the state elections have limited the practical impact on federal politics, party strategists and analysts will be pouring over the results to try to discern just how much faith the electorate has in Ms. Merkel’s handling of the crisis.

Ms. Merkel has stubbornly stuck to her refusal to set upper limits to the number of people allowed to apply for asylum, while searching for other solutions to the crisis. Her two-pronged approach of looking for a European solution to stem the influx, while trying to ensure those with no right to asylum are more speedily processed, has yet to bear fruit.

Furthermore the sexual assaults on a number of women on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, including by some migrant men, lead many people to doubt her insistence that “We can do it.”

Barely a week before the vote, the chancellor had to urge party activists to take heart despite the slide in the polls, saying: “It will pay off in the end.”

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