Immigration key issue in election that could reshape German politics

The final throes of campaigning are under way in an election which could shake the foundations of German politics

Immigration key issue in election that could reshape German politics

Markus Schreiber, AP

Voters in the state of Mecklenburg Vorpommern find themselves as the unlikely jury on what could be judgement day for Chancellor Angela Merkel and her controversial open door migration policy.

Last year 1.3 million migrants came to Germany and Mrs Merkel was accused of encouraging Syrian refugees to make the perilous trek across Europe knowing Germany would welcome them.

Now voters in a state election in Mecklenburg Vorpommern will vote in a battle which new political kid on the block, the anti-immigration AFD (Alternative For Germany) party, is predicted to do well in.

Some pollsters are saying the nationalist party could even become the biggest in the regional parliament.

If that happens it would send shockwaves through a political landscape dominated for so long by two parties who've been in coalition - Mrs Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats.

Schwerin is the main town in Mecklenburg Vorpommern, which is rural, sparsely populated and far from multi-cultural.

It took just a few thousand migrants from the enormous number that arrived last summer.

Leif-Erik Holm is heading the campaign for AFD, which is running locally on national issues.

Ex gave his explanation why people here would be casting an anti-immigration protest vote when migration hadn't really touched them.

He said: "People here have seen the problems with migrants in other cities, especially in west Germany, and they don't want that in this state and I agree with them.

"My job as a politician is to make sure those problems don't happen here.

"Our success lies in the unsuccessful immigration policy of Angela Merkel - this much is clear.

"When we talk to people, immigration is always the main subject and people just don't understand why Angela Merkel does not finally secure the borders."

Tensions have been running so high ahead of Sunday's state election that supporters of the AFD party have been sleeping by their campaign posters to prevent them being torn down.

They are determined to humiliate Mrs Merkel and her credibility in Europe.

Mrs Merkel's own constituency is in this state and she has been here several times campaigning over recent weeks - perhaps a sign of her own nerves ahead of the vote.

The outcome will be a barometer of not only her immigration policy but also her popularity ahead of national elections next year.