The right-wing, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party (AfD) has placed second in state elections, ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in her home state, exit polls say.
According to the latest estimates by the German ZDF channel, the AfD has received over 21 percent of the vote in the local elections in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has so far placed third, gaining 19 percent of the votes, compared to 23 in the previous elections in 2011. The ruling Socialist Democratic Party (SPD) has garnered 30 percent, which is 5 percent less than four years ago.
The projected win for the AfD, whose leaders have repeatedly demanded tougher anti-immigrant laws and lambasted Merkel for her open-door policy towards refugees, comes just a year before the federal elections.
"This is a slap in the face for Merkel,” AfD co-leader Frauke Petry said.
“The voters made a clear statement against Merkel's disastrous immigration policies. This put her in her place."
According to German officials, the country welcomed over 1 million refugees in 2015. The AfD has managed to gain voters from various parties, according to Petry.
“The reason for that is that the voters have not been listened to for a long time,” she said, as quoted by Focus media outlet.
Established in 2013 following the euro crisis, the AfD has entered the local elections in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for the first time. The party is already represented in eight out of 16 state parliaments.
It gained its best results in March this year in the federal state of Sachsonia-Anhalt, winning 24.3 percent and becoming the second strongest party after the CDU.