German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU party has been beaten into third place by anti-immigrant and anti-Islam the Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) in regional elections in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, partial results have shown.
The AfD party took about 21% of the vote behind the centre-left SPD’s 30%.
Angela Merkel’s CDU was backed by only about 19% of those who voted, according to the partial results.
Today’s vote was seen as a key test before German parliamentary elections in 2017.
Before it, all of Germany’s other parties ruled out forming a governing coalition with the AfD.
However, the AfD’s strong showing could weaken Angela Merkel ahead of the national elections next year.
Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, in the former East Germany, is where the chancellor’s own constituency is located.
Under Angela Merkel’s leadership, Germany has been taking in large numbers of refugees and migrants – 1.1 million in 2015 – and anti-immigrant feeling has increased.
The AfD, initially an anti-euro party, has enjoyed a rapid rise as the party of choice for voters dismayed by Angela Merkel’s policy.
However, its political power is limited and critics accuse it of engaging in xenophobic scaremongering.
The CDU has been the junior coalition partner in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania since 2006 and is likely to remain in the governing coalition. However, its 19% in the election is its worst ever result in the state, German broadcasters said.
Addressing supporters, local AfD leader Leif-Erik Holm said: “Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of Angela Merkel’s chancellorship today.”
German police clashed with hundreds of left-wing demonstrators trying to block the access of participants at a far-right party conference in Stuttgart.
At least 400 protesters have been arrested by riot police.
The right-wing populist Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party is expected to re-brand itself as openly anti-Islamic during the meeting.
Police, who surrounded several hundred protesters, fired pepper spray at crowds. Close to 1,000 officers were deployed.
The AfD wants to ban the burqa and outlaw minarets in Germany.
Despite the protest, the AfD conference began as planned on April 30.
Nearly 2,000 members of the AfD are registered to attend the conference. The party achieved gains in all three states taking part in regional elections in March, claiming almost a quarter of the vote in the relatively poor eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt.
The AfD had campaigned against what it called Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “catastrophic” decision to accept a million migrants and refugees in 2015.
In today’s conference, the party must agree a manifesto ahead of next year’s general election.
Proposals include withdrawal from the euro and the reintroduction of conscription, but there are splits within the party, including between its less hardline wing and the leadership.
Before the conference, police encircled groups of demonstrators in a technique known as kettling. Some protesters were seen being dragged away, with others chanting “Shame on you” at officers.