Merkel’s CDU Beats Anti-Immigration Party in Communal Elections

  • CDU received most support in Lower Saxony’s municipal vote
  • Lower Saxony prime minister says AfD now a ‘political factor’

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union easily defeated an anti-immigration party in communal elections in Volkswagen AG’s home state on Sunday, a week after losing a vote in another state to the Alternative for Germany.

The CDU took 34.4 percent of the vote in municipal elections in Lower Saxony, while the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, secured 7.8 percent, short of the double-digit share the party’s regional leader set as a benchmark before the ballot. The Social Democrats garnered 31.2 percent and the Greens 10.9 percent, according to the preliminary results, which are a composite of the local ballots.

Merkel’s CDU was beaten by the AfD in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Sept. 4, the first time her party lost to the AfD in a state election, as voters punish the chancellor for her open-border policy toward asylum seekers. In a Sept. 7 speech in parliament, Merkel stood firm, saying she won’t stoop to populist rhetoric to win back support and that there are no easy answers to the refugee crisis.

“Lower Saxony isn’t Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania -- in Lower Saxony we’re far away from the results that caused such great horror last weekend,” Stephan Weil, the state’s Social Democratic prime minister, said on ZDF public television. “Still, the results have made it clear that the AfD is a political factor now also in Lower Saxony.”

The AfD has to “remain modest” in Lower Saxony, Armin-Paul Hampel, the party’s leader in the region, said of the outcome. He also pointed to the party’s results exceeding 10 percent in some cities, including the state capital of Hanover and VW’s hometown of Wolfsburg.

The state government is run by the Social Democrats in coalition with the Greens.