The anti-immigration party that dealt German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) a sharp setback in a state election says its success is due to Merkel’s "catastrophic migration policies."
Alternative for Germany (AfD) party leader Frauke Petry said her party's success in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern had put the CDU “in its place."
Merkel's party took third place in the September 4 state election with 19 percent of the vote. That put it behind the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), with 30.6 percent of the vote, and the AfD with 20.8 percent.
The SPD and CDU retained enough seats to be able to continue their grand coalition in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, with the AfD as the second-largest bloc in the 71-seat state assembly. However, the SPD, which could also form a coalition with the Left and Green parties, said it was leaving its options open on who will now be its partner.
The vote, seen as a test before the 2017 German parliamentary elections, took place exactly a year after Merkel's decision to open Germany's borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Merkel initially won praise, but the mood has since changed, giving way to fears over how Europe's biggest economy will integrate the more than 1 million people who arrived in the country.
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, which is Merkel’s home region, is a small coastal state in northeastern Germany with just 1.3 million eligible voters. It is Germany’s poorest and least populous state.
Based on reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AFP