[BERLIN] Chancellor Angela Merkel's party slumped in regional elections in Berlin as the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany extended its run of successes at the polls, taking about 12 per cent in the latest signal of protest against the chancellor's refugee policy.
Berlin's Social Democrats, who have ruled the capital city for 15 years, including the last five in coalition with Ms Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, took the most votes on Sunday with 23 per cent, according to separate exit polls by broadcasters ARD and ZDF.
The CDU came in second with 18 per cent, while Alternative for Germany, or AfD, won seats in the city-state's parliament for the first time.
The CDU's defeat is the second straight electoral setback for Ms Merkel's party after finishing third behind the AfD for the first time in another state election two weeks ago.
The AfD has siphoned voters from established parties with its call to halt migration and deport rejected asylum seekers more quickly. In Berlin, both the CDU and SPD - which govern together at the national level - lost about 5 percentage points of support on Sunday.
The Greens and the anti-capitalist Left Party each took 16.5 per cent, while the pro-business Free Democrats were poised to return to the Berlin city assembly with 6.5 per cent, according to the exit polls.
The latest defeat means Ms Merkel's party may exit the government in Germany's largest city.
Berlin's Social Democratic mayor, Michael Mueller, has said he'd prefer a coalition with the Greens, for which he'd also lack a majority if the results are confirmed. That raises the prospect of a three-way coalition between the SPD, Greens and Left Party.