Angela Merkel was reeling from a series of election losses last night that could prove the most serious challenge she has faced to her power in Germany.
The vote, on what the German press called ‘Super Sunday’, was for regional parliaments in three of the country’s federal states.
Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU) was beaten in its stronghold of Baden-Wuerttemberg for the first time in more than 50 years, according to exit polls.
In the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, it saw a lead of 10pc in the polls evaporate in just four months.
Most damaging of all for Mrs Merkel, the far-Right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party stormed to its best election results ever on a campaign that focused almost exclusively on an anti-migrant message.
In the east German state of Saxony-Anhalt, where the CDU managed to cling on to first place, celebrations were muted as the AfD secured a shock second place with 23pc of the vote.
The AfD won seats in all three state parliaments and emerged from the night as a political force Mrs Merkel can no longer afford to ignore.
“We have fundamental problems in Germany that led to this election result,” said Frauke Petry, the AfD leader.