Far-right AfD Party Surges to 2nd Spot in Two Provincial Elections in Former East Germany
Mainstream politicians in Germany had feared an even stronger showing of the far-right formation.
The far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) rose for the first time to the second spots in the regional elections in Saxony and Brandenburg, two key German provinces, which were part of the former East Germany.
While many politicians from Germany’s mainstream parties feared that the AfD might demonstrate an even stronger position in Saxony and Brandenburg in Sunday’s elections, the controversial far-right formation has registered a steady growth in both regions.
The center-right ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of German Chancellor Angela Merkel remained the strongest party in Saxony with 32.1% of the votes, followed by AfD with 27.5%, and The Left (descended from the former East German communists) with 10.4%.
In Brandenburg, the mainstream leftist SPD party (also part of Merkel’s ruling right-left coalition) retained the top spot with 26.2%, followed by Alternative for Germany with 23.5%, and the CDU with 15.6%.
Thus, the AfD party has made massive leaps from its results in 2014 when the far-right party was just one year old, DW notes, adding that, its provincial election results in Saxony and Brandenburg are similar to what the formation got in Germany’s last national election back in 2017.
It is noted that as both the CDU and the SPD, the mainstream right and left, are losing popularity, and as all mainstream parties have vowed not to work with the AfD, forming ruling coalitions in Saxony and Brandenburg would be a complicated task.
Alternative for Germany leader Alice Wiedel celebrated the results of her party in Saxony and Brandenburg as a victor of “a people’s party”. The province of the former East Germany (five out of Germany’s total of sixteen states) remain the stronghold of the AfD, whose popularity surges largely thanks to opposition to the liberal immigration policy of the Merkel Cabinets in recent years.
Saxony is the most populous state of the former East Germany. It includes the cities of Dresden, Leipzig, and Chemnitz, and has more than 4 million residents. Together, Saxony and Brandenburg account for fewer than 10% of Germany’s total population.
Although the mainstream leftist SPD party retained its top spot in Brandenburg, in Saxony it slumped to fifth place, with only 7.7% of the votes. Nonetheless, the win in the former province provided some relief to the formation.
“Unlike many people predicted before the election in the East, the grand coalition won’t collapse into chaos,” one of the SPD’s interim leaders, Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, told the Rheinische Post newspaper on Monday, as cited by DW, after fears that an electoral defeat would lead the SPD to quit its coalition with Merkel’s CDU.
Meanwhile, the successor of Merkel as CDU leader, Anngret Kramp-Karrenbauer, described the election results in Brandenburg and Saxony as “difficult” for the party.
“[Yet, Saxony State Premier Michael Kretschmer] managed to make clear that there is — as opposed to the right-wing populists — a friendly, open, forward-looking face of Saxony,” AKK said.
“Let’s start conversations, and go in where it hurts,” said Kretschmer himself, adding that the victory was a “sign of trust” from voters.
AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland admitted that Merkel’s grand coalition would probably stay together, but argued that his party’s strong performance means that parties like the CDU will have to work with the AfD in the future, at least at a regional level.
“The question will be raised whether it is better to talk with the AfD,” Gauland said at a press conference in Berlin Monday morning.
Meanwhile, a public opinion poll from public broadcaster ARD found a majority of voters from every party except the Greens in Saxony felt like they were considered “second-class citizens” compared to western Germans.
Nearly 30 years after the end of communism and the German Reunification, the provinces of the former East Germany continue to lag behind those of the former West Germany. In 2018, Chancellor Angela Merkel called for “compassion” with the former East Germans.
(Banner image: Alice Weidel on Twitter)