Merkel faces tricky coalition talks after ‘nightmare victory’

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, as representative of the Bavarian CSU, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, head of the Christian Democratic Party CDU, FDP head Christian Lindner, and Merkel’s challenger Martin Schulz, head of the Social Democratic Party SPD, from left, attend a TV talk of the party leader in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, after the German parliament elections. (AP)
Updated 25 September 2017
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Merkel faces tricky coalition talks after ‘nightmare victory’

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel woke up Monday to a fourth term but now faces the double headache of an emboldened hard-right opposition party and thorny coalition talks ahead.
If the campaign was widely decried as boring, its outcome was a bombshell — a populist surge weakened Merkel’s conservatives as well as the center-left Social Democrats, handing both their worst results in decades.
“A nightmare victory for Merkel,” said Germany’s best-selling daily Bild.
After 12 years in power and running on a promise of stability and continuity, Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc scored 33 percent, according to final results, against 20.5 percent for the Social Democrats under challenger Martin Schulz, who pledged to go into the opposition.
The election spelt a breakthrough for the anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD), which with 12.6 percent became the third strongest party and vowed to “go after” Merkel over her migrant and refugee policy.
News weekly Der Spiegel said Merkel had no one but herself to blame for the bruising she got from voters.
“Angela Merkel deserved this defeat,” Spiegel’s Dirk Kurbjuweit wrote, accusing her of running an “uninspired” campaign and “largely ignoring the challenges posed by the right.”
The entry of dozens of hard-right nationalist MPs to the glass-domed Bundestag chamber breaks a taboo in post-World War II Germany.
“We will take our country back,” vowed the AfD’s jubilant Alexander Gauland, who has recently urged Germans to be proud of their war veterans and said a government official who is of Turkish origin should be “dumped in Anatolia.”
While joyful supporters of the AfD — a party with links to the far-right French National Front and Britain’s UKIP — sang the German anthem at a Berlin club late Sunday, hundreds of protesters shouted “Nazis out!“


All other political parties have ruled out working with the AfD, whose leaders call Merkel a “traitor” for allowing in more than one million asylum seekers since the height of the refugee influx in 2015.
While Germany still digests the rise of the right-wingers, Merkel’s inner circle will prepare Monday for what could be lengthy coalition talks ahead with a number of smaller parties.
Party leaders will meet at 0700 GMT at Berlin headquarters to draw their conclusions from the election that some have dubbed a referendum on the refugee crisis, a contentious issue especially for her Bavarian CSU allies.
CSU chief Horst Seehofer, a vocal critic of Merkel’s asylum policy, called the poll outcome a “bitter disappointment” and vowed to close the “open flank” on the right before state elections next year, signalling more trouble ahead.
A weakened Merkel must now find a new junior partner after the Social Democrats (SPD) declared they would go into opposition, to recover the support they lost while governing in Merkel’s shadow.
Schulz, putting a brave face on the defeat, vowed that the 150-year-old traditional workers’ party would serve as “the bulwark of democracy in this country” and stop the AfD from leading the opposition.


This will likely force Merkel to team up with two smaller, and very different, parties to form a lineup dubbed the “Jamaica coalition” because the three parties’ colors match those of the Caribbean country’s flag.
One is the pro-business and liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), which scored a 10.7-percent comeback after crashing out of parliament four years ago.
The other is the left-leaning, ecologist Greens party, a pioneer of Germany’s anti-nuclear movement which won 8.9 percent on campaign pledges to drive forward the country’s clean energy shift and fight climate change.
The far-left Die Linke, traditionally an opposition party, took 9.2 percent of votes.
Weeks, if not months, of jockeying and horse-trading could lie ahead to build a new government and avoid snap elections.
The FDP has governed with the conservatives before, and the two have in the past been seen as “natural allies.”
But its leader Christian Lindner has pointed to new “red lines,” voicing skepticism especially on French President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a single eurozone budget, which Merkel has cautiously greeted.
The Greens, meanwhile, sharply differ with the FDP and CSU on key issues from immigration to the environment, pushing to expand wind farms, phase out coal and take to task car makers over the “dieselgate” emissions cheating scandal.


Recording of crying children at US border adds to outrage

Updated 5 min 7 sec ago
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Recording of crying children at US border adds to outrage

  • Human rights attorney Jennifer Harbury said she received the tape from a whistleblower and told ProPublica it was recorded in the last week.
  • Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she had not heard the audio but said children taken into custody by the government are being treated humanely.

BROWNSVILLE, Texas: An audio recording that appears to capture the heartbreaking voices of small Spanish-speaking children crying out for their parents at a US immigration facility took center stage Monday in the growing uproar over the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.
“Papa! Papa!” one child is heard weeping in the audio file that was first reported by the nonprofit ProPublica and later provide to The Associated Press.
Human rights attorney Jennifer Harbury said she received the tape from a whistleblower and told ProPublica it was recorded in the last week. She did not provide details about where exactly it was recorded.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she had not heard the audio but said children taken into custody by the government are being treated humanely. She said the government has high standards for detention centers and the children are well cared for, stressing that Congress needs to plug loopholes in the law so families can stay together.
The audio surfaced as politicians and advocates flocked to the US-Mexico border to visit US immigration detention centers and turn up the pressure on the Trump administration.
And the backlash over the policy widened. The Mormon church said it is “deeply troubled” by the separation of families at the border and urged national leaders to find compassionate solutions. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, reversed a decision to send a National Guard helicopter from his state to the Mexican border to assist in a deployment, citing the administration’s “cruel and inhumane” policy.
At the border, an estimated 80 people pleaded guilty Monday to immigration charges, including some who asked the judge questions such as “What’s going to happen to my daughter?” and “What will happen to my son?“
Attorneys at the hearings said the immigrants had brought two dozen boys and girls with them to the US, and the judge replied that he didn’t know what would happen to their children.

Several groups of lawmakers toured a nearby facility in Brownsville, Texas, that houses hundreds of immigrant children.
Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico said the location was a former hospital converted into living quarters for children, with rooms divided by age group. There was even a small room for infants, complete with two high chairs, where two baby boys wore matching rugby style shirts with orange and white stripes.

Another group of lawmakers on Sunday visited an old warehouse in McAllen, Texas, where hundreds of children are being held in cages created by metal fencing. One cage held 20 youngsters.
More than 1,100 people were inside the large, dark facility, which is divided into separate wings for unaccompanied children, adults on their own, and mothers and fathers with children.
In Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for people trying to enter the US, Border Patrol officials say they must crack down on migrants and separate adults from children as a deterrent to others trying to get into the US illegally.
“When you exempt a group of people from the law ... that creates a draw,” said Manuel Padilla, the Border Patrol’s chief agent there.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, speaking to reporters during a tour of San Diego immigration detention facilities with Rep. Juan Vargas and other House Democrats, said family separation is a “heartbreaking, barbarian issue that could be changed in a moment by the president of the United States rescinding his action.”
“It so challenges the conscience of our country that it must be changed and must be changed immediately,” she said during a news conference at a San Diego terminal that is connected to the airport in Tijuana, Mexico by a bridge.  
US Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced late Monday that he was introducing emergency legislation intended to keep immigrant families together.
“All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers,” Cruz said. “This must stop.”
President Donald Trump emphatically defended his administration’s policy Monday, again falsely blaming Democrats.
“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” he declared. “Not on my watch.”
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Snow reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego and Mike Melia in Boston contributed to this report.