01:32 GMT +318 March 2018
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    Marine Le Pen, France's National Front political party leader, speaks during a news conference at the FN party headquarters in Nanterre near Paris after Britain's referendum vote to leave the European Union, France, June 24, 2016

    Le Pen Praises 'AfD Patriots' for Trouncing Merkel's Party in Local Elections

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    French National Front leader Marine Le Pen is overjoyed by the results of local elections in the German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which saw the right-wing populist, anti-immigration, Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party trounce the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel in her home state on Sunday.

    AfD, which was founded only three years ago, took over 21.9% of the vote in Sunday's election, with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) falling to third place with 19%, behind AfD and the ruling Social Democrats (SPD), who won 30%. The CDU result is down 4 points from the 23% it secured in 2011, with the Social Democrats also down, by 5%, compared to the 35.6% they received in 2011. The far-left Die Linke Party finished fourth with 12.9%, down from 18.4% in 2011.

    Observers suggest the AfD's success in the northeastern German state has largely to do with their opposition to the federal government's open door immigration policy, which has caused Chancellor Merkel's approval ratings to plummet. Germany has been hardest hit by the refugee and migrant crisis that struck Europe in recent years, taking in over a million asylum-seekers from the Middle East and North Africa last year, and an estimated 300,000 more so far in 2016.

    Commenting on the AfD's political breakthrough, which saw them receiving seats in the local parliament for the first time in history, Marine Le Pen, leader of the French conservative nationalist and Eurosceptic party National Front, congratulated the young party, and emphasized the significance of its victory over the federal ruling party.

    ​"What was considered impossible yesterday has become possible today: patriots from AfD have swept Merkel's party. Congratulations!" Le Pen wrote on her official Twitter page.

    Like the AfD, Le Pen's National Front is opposed to open-door immigration policy, is skeptical of EU institutions, and is critical of creeping Islamization, which they see as a threat to France's national identity.

    Sunday's election results are expected to translate into 26 seats for the SPD, 18 for AfD, 16 for Merkel's SDU, and 11 for Linke. The final results will be published on Thursday.

    Recent polling has shown that over half of Germans are opposed to Chancellor Merkel serving a fourth term. Federal elections will take place sometime between August and October 2017. Merkel has not yet confirmed whether she will run.

    France will hold presidential elections next spring. Last month, opinion polling showed Le Pen leading with 30% support; President Francois Hollande is polling at less than half that number.


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