German Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered one of her largest political setbacks at the weekend after her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party saw sharp losses in regional elections with many conservative voters punishing Merkel for her refugee policy.
Exit polls from broadcaster Deutsche Welle following the Sunday vote showed that the CDU lost ground in the Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rhineland Palatinate, and Saxony-Anhalt regions where elections were held.
The party came second in two out of the three states having suffered strong losses in Rhineland Palatinate (where the center-left Social Democratic Party won) and Baden-Wurttemberg (where the Green party won) and only retaining its lead in Saxony-Anhalt.
Speaking on Monday, Merkel said the election results marked a "difficult day" for the CDU and that the refugee policy was a "dominant issue" in the election, Dow Jones reported. However, she said the number of migrants had decreased in the region but that she was convinced that a European-wide solution was still needed.
The party's losses come amid the dramatic rise in support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party which claimed 24.3 percent of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt and, surprisingly for a three-year old party, saw a dramatic rise in support in the other regions.