Angela Merkel has admitted migrant policy mistakes are linked to her CDU party’s defeat in Berlin state elections.
The German Chancellor voiced regret over mistakes that contributed to last summer’s refugee crisis in Germany. More than a million migrants reached Germany – a record.
“If I could, I would turn back time for many, many years, to prepare better,” Angela Merkel told reporters.
The center-right CDU can no longer run Berlin with the Social Democrats (SPD).
The chancellor conceded that her open-door policy towards refugees – embodied in her phrase “wir schaffen das” (we can manage it) – was a factor in the election. She has now distanced herself from that phrase, calling it “a sort of simplified motto”.
Angela Merkel has been widely criticized in Germany for the policy, which was a humanitarian gesture faced with the desperate plight of migrants, many of them refugees from the war in Syria.
The right-wing, anti-migrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD) will enter the Berlin state parliament for the first time with 14% of the vote.
The AfD is now represented in 10 of Germany’s 16 regional parliaments. Earlier this month it pushed the CDU into third place in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
Looking back at the migrant crisis, Angela Merkel defended her policy as “absolutely correct on balance, but ultimately it meant that for a long time we did not have enough control”.
“Nobody wants a repeat of that situation – including me.”
Angela Merkel said she needed to work harder to explain her refugee policies.
The SPD emerged as the strongest party with about 22%, in spite of losing almost 7% of its voters, and said it would hold talks on forming a coalition with all parties except AfD. It is expected to drop the CDU as a coalition partner in favor of the left-wing Die Linke and the Greens.
September 18 election in Berlin, a city-state of 3.5 million people, was dominated by local issues including poor public services, crumbling school buildings, late trains and a housing shortage, as well as problems in coping with the migrant influx.
AfD co-chairman Joerg Meuthen said the party was strongly positioned for 2017 national elections and colleague Beatrix von Storch predicted that it would become the third largest political force in Germany next year.
“We’re witnessing in 2017 Angela Merkel’s battle for survival,” Beatrix von Storch said.