The embattled leader of the Republican Party, Franz Schonhuber, yesterday sought to defend his proposed arrangement with the extreme-right German People's Union, the DVU (whose leader, Gerhard Frey, enjoys a warm relationship with Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Russian nationalist).
Mr Schonhuber and Mr Frey have announced that they are creating 'a right- wing defensive force'. Theoretically, this could mean that the political impact of the far right could be increased. In some regional elections, for example in Hamburg last year, only the split in the vote between the Republicans and the DVU prevented the far right from crossing the 5 per cent hurdle for seats in parliament. In practice the move may prove a vain attempt to stave off political decline.
The most immediate result of the announcement was that Manfred Kanther, the German Interior Minister, said that he would ask the security services to examine closely the links between the two parties. He suggested that the Republicans could officially be reclassified as 'extremist'.
Last year the Republicans were riding relatively high with around 5 per cent of the vote, and sometimes gaining more than 10 per cent in regional elections. Now, support bounces along at little more than 2 per cent, and its chances of election to the federal parliament next month look slim.
The sharp decline in support appears to be partly because the question of asylum- seekers has gone off the boil. Now that Germany has sought to close its borders and is almost as unwilling to accept asylum-seekers as Britain there is no longer an obvious source of resentment for Republicans to play on.Reuse content