Wed | Aug 22, 2018

Merkel takes blame for poor election performance

Published:Tuesday | September 20, 2016 | 12:40 AM



German Chancellor Angela Merkel took partial responsibility for her party's worst-ever performance in a Berlin state election, acknowledging Monday that her government's policies at the national level were a factor.

Merkel pledged to work harder to address people's concerns, particularly on migrants. Her Christian Democratic Union party, or CDU, received just 17.6 per cent of the vote in the German capital.

"That's very bitter," Merkel told reporters in Berlin, referring to the drop of almost 6 percentage points her party suffered.

The result means that Berlin state's current coalition government, in which the CDU is the junior partner to the centre-left Social Democrats, or SPD, has no majority going forward. A three-way coalition of Social Democrats, the Green Party and the Left Party is now likely in the capital.

While the Berlin vote was partly seen as a referendum on Merkel's handling of the migrant crisis, the state government has no control over Germany's immigration policy. The left-leaning coalition that could now take over office would likely be more welcoming of refugees than the current state government.

"I take responsibility as party leader and chancellor," Merkel said at a news conference alongside her party's mayoral candidate, Frank Henkel.

Speaking in unusually self-critical terms, Merkel edged away from her oft-repeated mantra — first uttered during the height of the migrants crisis last year — that "we will manage".

Merkel said that while she stands by the sentiment, some voters had taken it as a provocation in view of the massive challenge that the country faces integrating hundreds of thousands of migrants.

She also acknowledged that for years Germany had benefited from rules that required refugee to apply for asylum in the first European Union country they enter, shielding her government from the pressure felt by other nations on the bloc's frontiers.

"If I could I would turn back time by many, many years in order to better prepare the entire German government and everyone else in a position of responsibility for the situation that hit us largely unprepared at the end of summer 2015," said Merkel.