Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered a humiliating defeat in German regional elections on her home turf on Sunday as voters turned their backs on her liberal refugee policy and gave the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party a political triumph.
A triumphant AfD pushed the chancellor's center-right Christian Democrats into third place in the vote in rural Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, with both coming behind the Social Democrats, the region's dominant political grouping.
"We are writing history in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern," said Leif-Erik Holm, the AfD's lead candidate. "Perhaps today is the beginning of the end of the chancellorship of Angela Merkel."
Peter Tauber, CDU general secretary, blamed the "bitter" result on widespread public "discontent and protest" at Merkel's refugee policy. A CDU official said the party would examine the result and hit back at the AfD's "simple, stupid slogans".
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The result in the region where the chancellor has her parliamentary seat, mark a new low in 62-year-old Merkel's fraught struggle to retain public backing for her refugee policy. Protesting voters are abandoning the mainstream parties in droves and turning the AfD into Germany's most successful right-wing party since the second world war.
Successive regional election setbacks are undermining the chancellor's authority and diverting her attention from a heavy international agenda, including the Brexit vote, the Ukraine crisis and difficult relations with Turkey.
The AfD, formed only in 2013, took 20.8 per cent of the vote for the state legislature in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. It took support from other parties and brought out non-voters, helping to raise the turnout from 51.5 per cent to 61 per cent.
The CDU, meanwhile, fell from 23 per cent in 2011 to 19 per cent, their worst result yet in the state.