Merkel Warns German Parties Against Populist Race To The Bottom

(@FahadShabbir)

Merkel warns German parties against populist race to the bottom

BERLIN, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News -7th Sept,2016) - Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday urged German politicians against stooping to the levels of anti-immigration populists, days after her party suffered a stinging state election defeat against the Islamphobic AfD.

In her first address to parliament since Sunday's election in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Merkel defended her welcoming stance to refugees and called on all parties to unite against the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) garnered its lowest ever score in the northeastern, ex-Communist state, falling to third place behind the anti-immigrant AfD, which was running there for the first time.

Merkel noted that not just her conservative party, but all mainstream parties from the left to the right, had lost ground to the AfD, which has railed against Merkel's welcoming liberal refugee stance.

"A party like the AfD is not only a challenge for the CDU... but a challenge for all of us sitting here," she told the Bundestag. But she warned politicians against deploying populist tactics such as blurring or ignoring facts in an effort to win back voters, saying Germany must stand by its core principles of freedom, security, justice and solidarity.

"Politicians like us have a responsibility to moderate our speech," she said. "If we begin to orient our speech and actions towards those who are not interested in solutions, we will lose our own direction in the end.

"If we resist that and stick with the truth, then we will regain what's most important -- the trust of the people." In the run-up to Sunday's vote, Merkel had urged the electorate to resist voting for the AfD, saying it offers "no solutions to problems" and was spreading a message based in "hate".

Nevertheless, the right-wing populist party, founded only in 2013, clinched almost 21 percent of the vote, against 19 percent for Merkel's party.

- 'Slogans, easy answers' - =========================== The drubbing emboldened Merkel's critics, including within her own conservative Union alliance.

Horst Seehofer, who leads the CDU's Bavarian sister party CSU, heaped on the pressure, saying "the situation is a serious threat for the Union". And Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, who leads the CDU's junior coalition partner the Social Democrats, charged that Merkel's message of "we can do it" was empty words.

In a response to the jibes, Merkel said squabbling within the ruling coalition only served their common enemy. "If we seek small gains at each others' expense... then the only winners are those who rely on slogans and easy answers," she warned.

Defending her refugee policy again, Merkel said a controversial EU-Turkey deal that she championed is in "both our interests." Under the deal, Ankara agreed to take back migrants who land in Greece in exchange for billions in aid as well as visa-free travel to the bloc.

"It is right for us to fight the illegal trade of people smuggling... since we've had this deal, almost no one has drowned in the Aegean Sea," Merkel argued. The EU-Turkey deal should also serve as a model for future agreements with Libya and Tunisia, said the German leader.

Merkel acknowledged however that work remained to be done at home to integrate the newcomers, as well as beef up security to prevent attacks such as those carried out in July by asylum seekers in Germany.

"Terrorism is not something new that came with refugees. But, given that not all refugees come with good intentions, we will take further (security) measures," she pledged. Germany in August unveiled tough new anti-terror measures after the IS-claimed attacks, including a controversial proposal to strip militant fighters of their German nationality.