The far right has entered the German parliament for the first time since 1945, with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) winning 12.6 per cent of the vote to become the third largest party.
The AfD more than doubled its vote from 2013, tapping into a wave of bitterness at Angela Merkel’s conservative government and campaigning against her “softness” on refugees.
Geert Wilders, head of the racist Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), hailed the result: “The PVV is number two in the Netherlands, the National Front is number two in France, the Freedom Party is second in Austria, AfD is third in Germany. The message is clear. We are not Islamic nations.”
The AfD includes hard right nationalists, racists and fascists. The fascist wing has grown in the last year.
But its support primarily represents a revolt against the establishment parties. Some 60 per cent of AfD voters said they had voted “against all other parties” and only 34 per cent voted out of belief in the AfD.
The vote for Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservative block fell 8.6 per cent while the Labor-style SPD, in coalition with Merkel, dropped 5.2 per cent to 20.5 per cent—its worst result since the Second World War.
The result does not mean Nazis are on the verge of power. But the hard core of the AfD will seek to use the result to harden up its supporters.
Just days before the election Alexander Gauland, one of the AfD’s lead candidates, said: “We have the right to be proud of the achievements of the German soldiers in two world wars.”
The AfD campaign focused on Merkel’s decision to allow 1.5 million refugees into Germany in 2015—calling for the closure of the border, as well as for the banning of the burka and the Muslim call to prayer. Party leaders also spoke out against abortion, same-sex marriage and action on climate change.
There were immediate protests against the AfD. Some 3000 anti-racists protested outside its election party in Berlin.
The left wing Die Linke party’s vote rose by 0.6 per cent to 9.2 per cent (4.3 million votes) but its ability to pose a clear alternative was hampered by its role in three regional coalition governments that had voted for privatisation.
Christine Buchholz, a Die Linke MP, said: “For the first time in decades, Nazis are in the Bundestag.
“A share of responsibility for this is borne by parts of the media that always gave the AFD a stage. And the established parties are also complicit with their restrictive asylum policy, racism and neo-liberalism.”
By David Glanz