Alarming German election: Anti-immigrant AfD is third-strongest party and enters into parliament for first time

Having led Germany since 2005, Angela Merkel yesterday won a fourth term as chancellor, in the latest national election. But coalition arrangements may be hard to negotiate...

Angela Merkel looks on course to retain her position as head of Government in Germany, after a bruising election campaign. However, the picture is far from rosy, with the German far-right party, AfD garnering more votes than opinion polls had predicted.

The Union parties’ alliance – the CDU/CSU – garnered 32.9% of the vote, and remain the largest party in Germany's parliament, by a considerable distance. But the alliance, led by Merkel, lost a total of 8.6% voters since 2013. The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), Merkel’s closest challengers, also suffered, winning the support of just 20.5% of the electorate (down 5.2%) – its lowest historic result.

“This is a disaster for the SPD" said Christian Odendahl, chief economist of the Centre for European Reform.

The far-right AfD, a noxious anti-Islamic, right-wing, nationalist party, formed in 2013 – and which has never been in Parliament before – achieved 12.6% support, emerging as Germany's third-strongest party. It appears that the AfD managed to filch 1-million votes from the CDU.

The AfD party was originally founded in April 2013 as a centre-right conservative party for the middle class, and as an Anti-Euro party, to oppose German federal policies concerning the eurozone crisis. Over time, the party split into two factions, one focusing on core economic policies and the other on an anti-immigration approach. Currently, the main focus is nationalism, and what they call 'reclaiming Germany's sovereignty and national pride'.

The results of the election represent a shock for liberal Germany. Addressing supporters, Angela Merkel said she hoped for a "better result" and talked about "extraordinary challenges".

She said in a statement: "We got where we wanted to be, we wanted to be the strongest power. It is down to us to form a government, and against us, no government can be formed. After 12 years of being responsible for the government, the result we had today is really not something you can take for granted. Naturally, there's a challenge facing us for the future, and that is that the AfD has made it into parliament.”

Merkel added that the alliance will have to win back those who voted for the AfD by solving their problems, by taking on board their concerns – their fears in some cases – but also by demonstrating good policy-making.

“In recent months we have fought for a Germany that we want to live in well, and now we need to set the course to ensure that in five and ten years' time it's still the case."

SPD leader and failed Chancellor-in-waiting, Martin Schulz, who is a former President of the European Parliament, said in a first reaction that the party would "fight for the principles and values of tolerance, communion and respect in the next election period.

"It's a difficult and bitter day for social democrats in Germany," he added. "We haven't reached our objective." Schulz also stated that the SPD will not be available for a “grand coalition” with Merkel´s CDU/CSU.

Chancellor Merkel will now have to search for new coalition partners - a process that could take months. The “Jamaica”- coalition, referring to an association between the colors of the flag of Jamaica and the symbolic colors of the parties CDU/CSU, FDP and Die Grünen, is the most likely outcome. But it is still, as they say, all to play for.


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