Ex-minister Blames Merkel for Rise of Anti-immigrant Groups

A former cabinet minister and member of Angela Merkel's conservative bloc blamed Germany's chancellor on Sunday for steering a course that has strengthened the eurosceptic AfD party and a new anti-immigrant grass-roots movement. In rare direct criticism of Merkel, Hans-Peter Friedrich, forced to resign as agriculture minister in February over leaked information, said Merkel made a "disastrous mistake" by wooing center-left voters and ignoring those on the right. Friedrich said voters who had joined the AfD, which has won seats in three state assemblies in Germany after shifting its focus from euroscepticism to concerns about immigration in the last year, had felt abandoned by the conservative bloc.