Voters in the eastern German city of Dresden have dealt the Christian Democrat party of Chancellor Angela Merkel a blow in mayoral elections. But the "anti-Islamization" movement PEGIDA made a surprisingly good showing.
Preliminary results for Sunday's mayoral election in Dresden showed Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) making it only to third place, with candidate Markus Ulbig receiving just 15.4 percent of the vote.
Ulbig, who is interior minister of the state of Saxony, of which Dresden is the capital, was easily beaten by Social Democrat (SPD) Eva-Maria Stange at 36 percent.
Stange, Ulbig's Cabinet colleague as Saxon minister of science, was the joint candidate for the SPD, Left party, Greens and the Pirate Party.
Second place in the vote went to independent candidate and current acting mayor Dirk Hilbert, who stood on behalf the "Independent Citizens of Dresden Association."
Two other candidates, including one from the Euroskeptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD), received so few votes as to be without any chance.
Although no candidate received an absolute majority of more than 50 percent, making a run-off necessary, Sunday's result suggests that the CDU is thus likely to lose its last mayoral post in a city of more than 500,000 residents.
However, the election saw a surprising success for the "anti-Islamization" movement PEGIDA, which caused world headlines last year with its protests in Dresden and elsewhere.
Its candidate, Tatjana Festerling (pictured), who also receives support from the far-right NPD, gleaned a surprising 9.6 percent.
The PEGIDA organization, whose name stands for "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West," has become even more radical in its anti-migrant stance since the resignation of a number of its leading figures at the beginning of the year.
However, although the demonstrations it organized drew up to 25,000 people at their height in January, recent protests have seen only some 2,000 take to the streets.
The election in Dresden was made necessary after the previous mayor, Helma Orosz of the CDU, resigned in February on health grounds.
The second round of the election, which can be contested once more by all candidates, is to take place on July 5. That election will be won by the candidate with the most votes.
tj/kms (AFP, dpa)