Election success for German anti-immigration party

Frauke Petry, leader of Alternative for Germany, which achieved tremendous gains in German elections yesterday.

Frauke Petry, leader of Alternative for Germany, which achieved tremendous gains in German elections yesterday.

The anti-immigration party “Alternative for Germany” (Alternative für Deutschland – AfD) has made worldwide headlines this week after yesterday’s elections to three German state parliaments (Landtag) in which AfD finished in second or third place.

AfD was only formed in 2013 and until last summer was mainly focused on reform of the European Union and the single currency: effectively a milder version of our UKIP. In the European Parliament its members were in the same transnational group as David Cameron’s Conservatives and the Polish governing party Law & Justice. They have now been expelled from this group and will probably ally with the Austrian Freedom Party and Marine Le Pen’s French National Front.

AfD was transformed into a more radical anti-immigration force less than a year ago under a new leader – Frauke Petry – and is now seen as the main voice for Germans disgusted by the liberal immigration policy of their Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mrs Merkel’s Conservative CDU and its traditional opposition the SPD (similar to our Labour Party) were the big losers in yesterday’s elections, and the anti-immigration AfD were the big winners, fighting all three states for the first time.

The most dramatic result was in the former East German state of Saxony-Anhalt, where AfD finished second with 24.2% and will now be the main opposition to an unprincipled coalition of conservatives, socialists and greens who will attempt to govern the region. The nationalist NPD (which is fighting a court case against an attempted ban by German authorities) polled 1.9% (down from 4.6% last time) and a new nationalist party called Die Rechte (The Right) polled 0.2%.

AfD finished third in the traditionally prosperous and conservative western German state of Baden-Württemberg, polling 15.1%. The NPD (for whom this was never a stronghold) slipped from 1.0% to 0.4% and another nationalist party, the Republikaner (who held seats in Baden-Württemberg from 1992 to 2001) similarly fell from 1.1% to 0.3%.

In another western German state – Rhineland Palatinate – the AfD again finished third with 12.6%, while the NPD and Republikaner polled 0.5% (down from 1.1%) and 0.2% (down from 0.8%).

The immigration crisis and the rise of AfD inspired large numbers of Germans to take part in these elections: turnout was 61.1% in Saxony Anhalt and 70.4% in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland Palatinate.

We can now expect AfD (despite the levels of support achieved in these elections) to be intensively targeted by Germany’s heavily politicised security agencies, who will support efforts by establishment politicians to intimidate anti-immigration campaigners.

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