BERLIN, GERMANY: Chancellor Angela Merkel called on her ruling coalition Wednesday to resist pressure to change its refugee policy after a stinging defeat to the upstart anti-migrant AfD in regional polls at the weekend.
In her first address to parliament since Sunday’s election in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Merkel defended her welcoming stance to refugees and called on all parties to unite against the AfD.
Her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) garnered its lowest ever score in the ex-Communist state, falling to third place behind the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which was running there for the first time.
Merkel noted that not just her conservative party, but all mainstream parties from left to right, had lost ground to the AfD.
“A party like the AfD is not only a challenge for the CDU… but a challenge for all of us sitting here,” she told parliamentarians in the Bundestag.
But she warned politicians against deploying populist tactics such as blurring or ignoring facts in an effort to win back voters and said germany must stand by its core principles of freedom, security, justice and solidarity.
“Politicians like us have a responsibility to moderate our speech,” she said. “If we begin to orientate our speech and acts towards those who are not interested in solutions, we will lose our own direction in the end.
“If we resist that and stick with the truth, then we will regain what’s most important — the trust of the people,” she said.
In the run-up to Sunday’s vote, Merkel had urged the electorate to resist voting for the AfD, describing it as a party that offers “no solutions to problems and which is built mainly around protest, often with hate”.
Nevertheless, the party, founded in 2013, clinched almost 21 percent, against 19 percent for Merkel’s party.