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Merkel vows to press on with rallies despite jeers

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed Thursday to press on with election campaign rallies in places where she has been greeted with choruses of jeers and whistles, saying she intended to take a stand against hate.

[BERLIN] German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed Thursday to press on with election campaign rallies in places where she has been greeted with choruses of jeers and whistles, saying she intended to take a stand against hate.

At several rallies, particularly in eastern states such as Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, protesters - many holding campaign posters for the populist AfD party or the far-right NPD, have loudly booed or chanted slogans against Merkel.

More than 100 demonstrators sought to disrupt Ms Merkel's rally Wednesday evening in the Saxony city of Torgau, whistling, booing and chanting "Get lost".

Police said that two men at the Torgau rally, aged 36 and 39, made the Nazi salute.

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Hours later at a rally in Finsterwalde, also in the former communist east, the chancellor was given a similarly hostile reception.

But Ms Merkel said she would not be deterred.

"It is important to me to keep going where I'm not getting a friendly reception," she said in an interview with the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland newspaper group.

"Many people who do not subscribe to the concert of whistles or chorus of chants need encouragement to keep showing civil courage and to stand up against the hate," she said.

Ms Merkel has also faced protesters in western states during her public appearances ahead of the September 24 vote.

At a rally in Heidelberg on Tuesday, protesters sought to pelt her with tomatoes.

Ms Merkel, who happened to be wearing an orange blazer, was lightly hit, but she shrugged off the incident with a smile.

Polls show that Ms Merkel's conservative alliance is holding a strong lead of around 15 percentage points against the runner-up Social Democratic Party.

But her decision in 2015 to open Germany's borders to thousands of refugees fleeing war in Syria and Iraq split public opinion.

The AfD is seeking to win its first seats in parliament with its anti-immigration and anti-Islam platform.

AFP