Germany’s anti-migrant populists made a strong showing at state polls today, scoring ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party as voters punish the German leader over her liberal refugee policy.

The xenophobic Alternative for Germany (AfD) obtained around 21 percent in its first bid for seats in the regional parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Vorpommern, according to exit polls shortly after voting ended.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, meanwhile, garnered just 19 percent in its worst ever showing in the north-eastern state, while the Social Democrats maintained top place with around 30 percent.

Calling it a "proud result," Leif-Erik Holm, AfD’s lead candidate said, "And the cream of the cake is that we have left Merkel’s CDU behind us… maybe that is the beginning of the end of Merkel’s time as chancellor."

Although the former Communist state is Germany’s poorest and least populous, it carries a symbolic meaning as it is home to Merkel’s constituency Stralsund.

The polls are also held exactly a year after the German leader made the momentous decision to let in tens of thousands of Syrian and other migrants marooned in eastern European countries.