Angela Merkel's CDU suffers German state election setbacks
The party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suffered defeats in two of three states holding regional elections, exit polls suggest.
They indicate the Christian Democrats lost support in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland Palatinate, but remain the largest party in Saxony-Anhalt.
The anti-migrant AfD achieved gains in all three states, exit polls indicate.
The elections were seen as a test of support for Chancellor Merkel's policy of accommodating refugees.
More than a million migrants and refugees entered Germany in 2015.
In the western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, a former stronghold of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), support for the party reached a historic low of about 27%, the exit polls suggest.
They say the Green-led coalition currently in power won the election.
In Saxony-Anhalt, a poor, eastern state where the CDU and the Social Democrats govern together, that coalition looks set to remain in office but the exit polls say Alternative Fuer Deutschland (AdF) won about 22% of the vote.
The Social Democrats are set maintain their hold on Rhineland-Palatinate, a state the CDU had hoped to capture.
Already represented in five of Germany's 16 regional parliaments, the AfD has campaigned on slogans such as "Secure the borders" and "Stop the asylum chaos".
German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Saturday that gains for the AfD would not change his government's stance on immigration.
He said: "There is a clear position that we stand by: humanity and solidarity. We will not change our position now.
But in Berlin on Saturday, about 2,000 right-wing demonstrators carrying German flags chanted "Merkel must go!" and "We are the people!".
A Green-SPD coalition is expected to stay in power in Badem-Wuerttemberg.
Right-wing activists protested against government policies in Berlin on Saturday.
The poor results could put additional pressure on Mrs Merkel, just as she is trying to push through an EU deal with Turkey to reduce the numbers of migrants and refugees entering western Europe.
As Europe's largest economy, Germany has a leading role in policy-making for the European Union.
At a summit earlier this week, the chancellor promoted a last-minute draft of the deal and demanded the support of other European leaders.
Ms Merkel still needs to complete that deal at another summit at the end of this week. If her party performs poorly on Sunday, she will go into that meeting weakened.
The meetings and demonstrations came as thousands of migrants have massed in muddy camps in the Greek border town of Idomeni after countries across the Balkans closed their borders.
'Profile: German right-wing AfD leader Frauke Petry'
She is an East German-born female scientist heading a political party - but there the parallels with Angela Merkel stop.
While Chancellor Merkel believes that Germany can and must cope with the large numbers of migrants seeking asylum there, Frauke Petry has said that German police should "if necessary" shoot at migrants seeking to enter the country illegally.
Ms Petry took over as leader of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) political grouping in July 2015 after an internal power struggle that saw the party's co-founder and first leader, Bernd Lucke, ousted.
The AfD was formed in 2013 by a group of economists concerned at German-backed bailouts for poorer eurozone members.
Under Ms Petry the party has moved to the right, and its focus has changed from eurozone issues to migration, after more than a million people claimed asylum in Germany in 2015.
In local council elections in Hessen on 6 March the party came third, winning more than 13% of the vote - putting it in a strong position ahead of regional elections in three states on 13 March.
Ms Petry was elected to Saxony's state parliament in 2014.
Ms Petry is a member of the state parliament in Saxony - the first German state to elect AfD legislators.
The 40-year-old was born in Dresden and moved to west Germany as a teenager after reunification.
She studied chemistry at the University of Reading, gained a doctorate at Goettingen University, and later founded a company in Leipzig which manufactures environmentally-friendly polyurethanes.
After the party wrangling which saw her take over the leadership of the AfD, Ms Petry announced she had separated from her husband, a Lutheran minister with whom she has four children. She is now in a relationship with Marcus Pretzell, one of the AfD's two MEPs.
- Founded in 2013 by Bernd Lucke, Alexander Gauland and Konrad Adam to oppose German-backed bailouts for poorer southern European countries
- Mr Lucke, seen as a moderate, wanted Germany out of the euro but his colleagues were unhappy that he wanted to focus exclusively on euro-related issues
- He quit the party in early July 2015, arguing it was becoming increasingly xenophobic
- Right-winger Frauke Petry replaced him as party leader
- It became the first anti-euro party to win seats in a German regional parliament, receiving almost 10% of the vote in the eastern German state of Saxony in 2014, and went on to win seats in four other states' parliaments in 2014 and 2015
- The party had seven MEPs elected in the 2014 European elections (including Mr Lucke), but only two remain party members
- AfD was part of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, like the UK's ruling Conservatives, but its two MEPs look set to be expelled from the group over comments on shooting refugees
OP: So Merkel is losing support, probably because of the fact that she has been open to taking in refugees.