The troubling German election results prove that far-right nationalism is by no means dead in Europe

From Hungary to France and from the Netherlands to Poland, the anti-establishment, anti-migrant, anti-EU vote has not collapsed, even if it hasn’t actually grabbed significant power in Western Europe yet

Just because Merkel and Macron won does not mean these extremists are just going to pack up and go home
Just because Merkel and Macron won does not mean these extremists are just going to pack up and go home

The Germans, so we’re told, call their newly re-elected Chancellor Mutti, or mammy. If so, and I apologise for the unpalatable imagery, Angela Merkel has just given political birth to some frightening offspring – Nazis in the Reichstag building again.

Plus her centre-right Christian Democrat group has slumped to its worst showing pretty much in the entire post-war era. She has also dragged down her Social Democrat allies in her grand coalition with her – collapsing to a mere fifth of the vote for what was once a proud natural party of Government in the federal republic.

Between them these two old established parties now command barely half the vote, where they once together completely dominated the scene. German politics is fragmenting and is a much more dangerous place than the comforting headlines about a fourth term for mummy suggest.

The message is plain: from Hungary to France and from the Netherlands to Poland, the anti-establishment, anti-migrant, anti-EU vote has not collapsed, even if it hasn’t actually grabbed significant power in Western Europe. Yet.

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No one should feel easy about hard-right groups coming second or third in national elections, still less first, as in Poland and Hungary. Maybe the AfD is less Nazi than we might fear, and it has the usual complement of misfits and the confused: but there should be no room for complacency.

In Germany there now has to be a coalition that ensures the AfD don’t become the official opposition in the Bundestag – which means the free democrats and Greens have to do some serious compromising with Mutti.

That’s because the rump SPD have to be allowed to be the opposition rather than join another grand coalition with the Christian Democrats, which would mean leaving the opposition role, plus perks and prestige, to the AfD. Unthinkable. Thankfully the SPD is so enfeebled it would be suicide to go in with Merkel again.

Just because Merkel and Macron won does not mean these extremists are just going to pack up and go home. We need seriously to think about what will happen if and when M&M, as we might label them, start to lose popularity in France and Germany. Where will voters turn then? Is it impossible more would turn to the National Front or AfD? No.

Like many far-right combinations, the AfD could easily splinter: such factions often do. Yet they cannot be dismissed, nor ought the concerns of the voters who fell for their easy slogans.

Merkel was brave and right to stick to her policy and allow the Syrian refugees in: but she badly failed to win the argument about migration, and perhaps Europe, even if she did, sort of, win this scrappy election.

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