Berlin vote looks ominous for Merkel's party
ANGELA Merkel's conservatives have suffered their second electoral blow in two weeks in a Berlin city vote where citizens roundly rejected her open-door refugee policy.
Support for her Christian Democrat Union slumped to its lowest level since the country reunified in 1990.
Voters turned to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), which took 12.2% of the vote. It is now represented in 10 of the country's 16 state parliaments.
A year before a federal election, the result will raise pressure on Ms Merkel and deepen divisions within her conservative camp.
"There is no question. We didn't get a good result in Berlin today,” said Michael Grosse-Broemer, a senior CDU lawmaker.
However, he blamed his party's Berlin losses primarily on local issues.
"I think it is dangerous to transfer the Berlin result to the federal level,” he told broadcaster ZDF.
A backlash against her migrant policy has raised questions about whether Ms Merkel, Europe's most powerful leader, will stand for a fourth term next year.
But given a dearth of options in her party, she still looks to be the most likely candidate.
Initial projections from ZDF put Ms Merkel's CDU on 18%, down from 23.3% in the last election in 2011.
The Social Democrats (SPD) also lost support, falling to 23.1% from 28.3%, but remained the biggest party.
The SPD is likely to ditch the CDU from its current coalition.
The result compounds Ms Merkel's problems after a rout in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern two weeks ago triggered calls from her conservative allies in Bavaria to toughen up her migrant policy.
In particular, they want a cap of 200,000 refugees a year but Ms Merkel has rejected this outright.
The AfD has campaigned heavily on the migrant issue, playing to voters' fears about the integration of the roughly one million migrants who entered Germany last year.