The Wall Street Journal: Merkel wins in Germany, but anti-immigrant party enters parliament with huge gains

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BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative alliance won the German election, but a steep drop in its support and an anti-immigrant party’s surge signaled political turbulence ahead for Europe’s largest economy.

Her center-right bloc’s victory on Sunday, projected at about 33% to 21%, over the center-left Social Democrats means that Merkel is virtually assured of a fourth term as chancellor.

But the election result signaled a sudden turn for a political system whose relative stability has underpinned the European Union in recent years as it lurched from crisis to crisis. The center grew weaker and an unpredictable new force rose on the right, delivering a historic setback for the country’s mainstream. Polls and interviews showed that Merkel’s decision to allow hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants to enter Germany in 2015 loomed over the election.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party saw their worst result since 1949, losing around a fifth of the 41.5% support they garnered just four years ago. The Social Democrats suffered their worst election since World War II. The establishment’s troubles came despite a healthy economy providing nearly full employment and pre-election approval ratings for Merkel of above 60%.

The nationalist Alternative for Germany, known as the AfD and founded less than five years ago, vaulted over the 5% hurdle for seats in Parliament with some 13% of the vote. It will become the first party with positions well to the right of Merkel’s center-right bloc to sit in the national legislature in more than 50 years. The party wants to weaken European integration, describes Germany’s Muslim minority as a “great danger” and says the country should reduce its focus on Holocaust remembrance.

An expanded version of this article appears on WSJ.com

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