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  • CDU top candidate Frank Henkel walks past AfD top candidate Georg Pazderski (L) in a TV studio at the Berlin state assembly, Germany September 18, 2016.

    CDU top candidate Frank Henkel walks past AfD top candidate Georg Pazderski (L) in a TV studio at the Berlin state assembly, Germany September 18, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Support for the democratic socialist Left Party and the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany grew, indicating a growing polarization in Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party suffered another significant electoral defeat Sunday, slumping to its lowest level since 1990 in a Berlin state vote that saw support grow for both Die Linke, "the Left" party in English, and the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

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Support for the Left Party, which ran on a democratic socialist and anti-racist platform, grew by 4 points and won them 15.7 percent of the vote, propelling them to a third-place finish.

Meanwhile, the anti-immigrant AfD won 14.2 percent of the vote and will enter its 10th regional assembly among the country's 16 states.

Merkel's CDU received 17.6 percent, down from 23.3 percent in the last election in Berlin in 2011. The Social Democrats (SPD) also lost support, falling to 21.6 percent from 28.3 percent, but remained the biggest party.

Despite their fifth-place finish, the AfD was still seen as the big winner. Founded in 2013 as a Eurosceptic party, it did not compete in the previous election and will enter the Berlin state parliament with approximately 25 seats.

AfD has in the last year played to voters' fears about the integration of the roughly one million migrants and refugees who entered Germany last year.

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Commentators said the result indicated that the party looked poised to enter the lower house of parliament in 2017.

“With the Berlin result, the AfD has consolidated its position and shown it can appeal to voters across the board — it is now represented in a big city, eastern German states and in more affluent western states like Baden-Wuerttemberg,” said Thomas Jaeger, political scientist at Cologne University.

Sunday's results indicate a growing polarization in Germany, with voters turning to left-wing and far-right parties.

The SPD, Merkel's junior coalition partner at the national level, wants to form a coalition with the Greens and possibly the Left Party in the city-state of Berlin.

The Greens won 15.2 percent of the Berlin vote, down two percentage points from 2011.

A year before a national election, the result is set to raise pressure on Merkel and deepen rifts in her conservative camp, with more sniping expected from her CSU allies in Bavaria.

The CSU's Bavarian finance minister Markus Soeder was quick to call it the “second massive wake-up call,”, after Merkel's Christian Democrats were routed in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern two weeks ago.

In particular, they want a cap of 200,000 refugees per year, which Merkel rejects.

A backlash against the leader's refugee policy has raised questions about whether Merkel, Europe's most powerful leader, will stand for a fourth term next year. Given a dearth of options in her party, however, she is still the most likely candidate.


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