German elections: AfD surge at expense of Angela Merkel a sign of the 'return of the Nazis'

Berlin mayor warns resurgence of far-right will be seen as ‘return of the Nazis’

Harry Cockburn
Monday 19 September 2016 19:28
Top candidate of the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) Georg Pazderski casts his vote
Top candidate of the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) Georg Pazderski casts his vote

The far-right, openly anti-Muslim AfD party has made significant gains in Germany’s local elections as Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat party slumped to its worst ever result.

Alternative for Germany won 14.2 per cent of the vote, just three days after Berlin’s mayor Michael Mueller warned that a double-digit score for the anti-immigration party would “be seen around the world as a sign of the return of the right-wing and the Nazis in Germany”.

The vote secures the anti-immigration party its first seats in the Berlin state parliament – the first far-right party to do so since German reunification.

It is the 10th state legislature in Germany in which the party has now won at least one seat.

The Christian Democrats (CDU) polled just 17.6 per cent of the vote, a major blow to Ms Merkel’s party and an indication of the uphill battle the party will have at the national elections in Germany in October 2017.

The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) won the highest percentage of votes with 21.6 per cent.

Following the result, Georg Pazderski of the AfD said: “From zero to double-digits, that's a first for Berlin.”

“We have achieved a great result”, added Beatrix von Storch, one of the party’s leaders. “We have arrived in the capital and are on our way to the Bundestag.”

Speaking ahead of the result, the Berlin mayor had warned of a strong result for the party: "It would be seen around the world as a sign of the return of the right-wing and the Nazis in Germany. Berlin is not any old city - Berlin is the city that transformed itself from the capital of Hitler's Nazi Germany into a beacon of freedom, tolerance, diversity and social cohesion," he added.

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Responding to the result, Sigmar Gabriel, the German vice-chancellor and leader of Ms Merkel’s coalition partners, the SPD said: “Berlin continues to stand for social and human decency.”

But despite reaching double figures, the AfD’s result was not as significant as earlier polls indicated.

Last week the party was forecast to win as much as 15 per cent of the vote, which would have put it third.

However, it was beaten into fifth place behind the Social Democrats, the CDU, the Left Party and the Greens.

When migrants started arriving in large numbers about a year ago, some were met with applause, cheers and gifts, but the mood has since shifted due to concerns about integration and attacks by asylum seekers on civilians this summer.

The result is seen as a reaction to Ms Merkel’s immigration policy with many CDU voters shifting towards the AfD to register their disapproval.

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