Exclusive Anti-Immigrant Party Gains in Hesse State’s Municipal Elections, Merkel’s CDU, Greens Lose

Germany’s anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany has won 13.2 percent of votes in municipal elections in the west German state of Hesse, while Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Greens, the two ruling parties in the state, suffered the biggest losses. Sunday’s elections in Hesse’s municipalities and counties are seen as a litmus test of three state elections coming up on March 13 and seen as a vote on Ms. Merkel’s refugee policy. The chancellor’s welcoming stance to refugees last summer has increasingly drawn criticism  in recent months from citizens and politicians, both from the opposition as well as from her own party. More than a million refugees entered Germany last year. In the state off Hesse, a prosperous state where Germany’s financial capital Frankfurt am Main is located, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, or AfD, became the third-largest party based on preliminary election results. The party did not take part in the 2011 elections, as it was only founded in 2013 as an E.U.-skeptic party against euro-zone bailouts of Greece and other indebted countries. Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union won 28.2 percent of the votes, compared with 33.7 percent in 2011, and remained the state’s largest party. The Social Democrats, in a coalition with Ms. Merkel on the federal level, dropped to 28.0 percent from 31.5 percent. The Greens recorded a drop to 11.6 percent from 18.3 percent, losing its third-place position to the AfD, data from Hesse’s State Statistics Office showed on Monday. Final results are not expected until the end of the week due to a complicated system of voting, which allows choices of multiple candidates from different parties.