Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU party has been beaten into third place by an anti-immigrant and anti-Islam party in elections in a north-eastern German state.
The Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) party took just under 21% of the vote behind the centre-left SPD’s 30%.
The German chancellor’s CDU was backed by only 19% of voters, its worst ever result in the state.
The vote was seen as a key test before German parliamentary elections in 2017.
Before the vote in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, in the former East Germany, all of Germany’s other parties ruled out forming a governing coalition with the AfD. But the party, formed only three years ago, is already represented in nine of Germany’s 16 state parliaments.
This is humiliating for Angela Merkel – not least because this was on home turf. Mrs Merkel’s constituency is in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.
Alternative fuer Deutschland’s anti immigrant and increasingly strident anti-Islam message has a powerful appeal to people concerned about integration and worried about domestic security.
The AfD, initially an anti-euro party, has enjoyed a rapid rise as the party of choice for voters dismayed by Mrs Merkel’s policy.