AfD fails to win key German elections
The two parties in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition maintained a slim lead in two eastern regions yesterday (Sunday).
The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) trailed the incumbent Social Democrats (SPD) by about 4 percentage points in Brandenburg. In neighbouring Saxony, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) led the AfD by around the same margin.
All parties in the two regions have refused to work with the AfD.
“The friendly Saxony won,” said Brandenburg’s CDU prime minister, Michael Kretschmer, in Dresden (pictured in 1900). The AfD promised to pose vigorous opposition.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the CDU’s new national leader, said the party had not addressed some problems “as elegantly” as it should have, which pointed to the growing support for the AfD.
“We see that people want answers for the future, they want things to be tackled in the government,” Kramp-Karrenbauer, the anointed successor to Merkel when she steps down as chancellor before 2021, told ARD television. “That is exactly my task and that’s what we will do in coming weeks in a very focused way.”
Alexander Gauland, the AfD leader, said the results “punished” the CDU. “We are satisfied in Brandenburg as well as in Saxony,” he said.
The two regions, formerly in communist East Germany, have long been strongholds of the CDU and SPD. In Saxony, Merkel’s CDU-CSU alliance scraped home with 32.2 per cent of the vote, a loss of 7.2 percentage points. The AfD took 27.5 per cent of the vote, up from 9.7 per cent in 2014.
In Brandenburg, the SPD were less than 3 points ahead of the AfD, which increased its vote share to 23.5 per cent. The Left or Linke party in coalition with the SPD in Brandenburg dropped by 7.9 points.
The AfD is polling at 12 per cent nationally with eastern Germans more than twice as likely to support the Eurosceptic party as are their wealthier western counterparts.
The SPD faces renewed internal tensions over whether it should remain in the coalition with Merkel amid its electoral freefall.
Carsten Brzeski of ING Bank said: “With a slowing economy and inner-party tensions in both governing parties, the elections in Saxony and Brandenburg could be the famous flashpoint of political turbulence in Berlin.”
The number of foreign-born residents is low in the east but there is a general sense of being left behind by the wealthier west.
The AfD campaigns talk about completing the political revolution that ended communist East Germany and they refer to the “Merkel regime”.
Eastern Germany is home to several of the AfD’s most extreme leaders, including Björn Höcke, who called Berlin’s Holocaust memorial a “monument of shame”.
Dresden in 1900 before it was flattened by Allied bombing during the Second World War . Picture credit: Wikimedia