Berlin election: Merkel links migrant crisis to party defeat

German Chancellor Angela Merkel clinched an EU deal with Turkey to stem the influx of migrants. PHOTO: AFP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has accepted responsibility for her Christian Democratic party’s “bitter defeat” in Berlin state elections.

She voiced regret over mistakes that contributed to last summer’s migrant crisis in Germany. More than a million migrants reached Germany, a record.

“If I could, I would turn back time for many, many years, to prepare better,” she told reporters.

Her CDU party can no longer run Berlin with the Social Democrats (SPD), BBC said.

The centre-right CDU won 17.6 per cent of the vote – its worst-ever result in Berlin.

Mrs Merkel conceded that her open-door policy towards migrants – embodied in her phrase “wir schaffen das” (we can manage it) – was a factor in the election. She has now distanced herself from that phrase, calling it “a sort of simplified motto.”

She has been widely criticised in Germany for the policy, which was a humanitarian gesture faced with the desperate plight of migrants, many of them refugees from the war in Syria.

The right-wing, anti-migrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD) will enter the Berlin state parliament for the first time with 14 per cent of the vote.

The AfD is now represented in 10 of Germany’s 16 regional parliaments. Earlier this month it pushed the CDU into third place in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Looking back at the migrant crisis, Ms Merkel defended her policy as “absolutely correct on balance, but ultimately it meant that for a long time we did not have enough control”.

“Nobody wants a repeat of that situation, including me.”

She said she needed to work harder to explain her migrant policies.

The SPD emerged as the strongest party with about 22 per cent, in spite of losing almost seven per cent of its voters, and said it would hold talks on forming a coalition with all parties except AfD. It is expected to drop the CDU as a coalition partner in favour of the left-wing Die Linke and the Greens.