Angela Merkel yesterday (Sunday 24th September) secured a fourth term as Chancellor of Germany, but must now attempt to form a coalition government after losing a significant number of votes to the country’s far-right party, the AfD.
Merkel’s party, the CDU/CSU, estimated around a million of its voters defected to the AfD (Alternative for Germany) in a turn of events that shocked the political establishment.
The AfD won its first seats in parliament in a surprise upsurge in popularity. The party is the first of its kind to sit in Bundestag since World War Two.
The party’s success is attributed as a reaction to Merkel’s opening of Germany’s borders in 2015 to large numbers of migrants and refugees.
In a move that has said to have changed the tenure of German politics, the AfD gained 13% of the vote, with particularly high swings in the Eastern parts of Germany, reaching as high as 27% in Saxony.
The AfD’s campaign focused on an anti-immigrant message and states that their outlook falls in line with the popular opinion of the country.
Beatrix von Storch, who is both a member of the AfD and the European Parliament, said that the result was a huge shift in the whole of the political system.
“We will be a very strong opposition. There wasn’t an opposition in the last government. All the other parties have been basically likeminded.”
The party has been called anti-Islam, and their new role in Bundestag has sparked protests across Germany.
Co-leader of the AfD, Alexander Gauland, said that while the party had no objection to a Muslim having a belief in Islam, they did not want to see any mosques or minarets in Germany.
Storch today affirmed this stance, and stated that these fixtures are “signs of political power in the public sphere and the public area and this what we do not want. This is our country. This is still a Christian-based country.
“The only thing that people want is to keep the country. They do not want to lose their culture and they don’t want to have open borders and they don’t want to take in unlimited numbers of migrants. This is just reasonable.”
The Eurosceptic party said that Brexit also happened because of the problem of immigration.
Starch made the claim that the majority coming across the border into Germany were not fleeing war.
Starch responded to the accusation that their influences in parliament will cause rifts in the country by stating these divisions already exist because of the current government:
“I think the policy of Merkle’s divided the country. It is not us speaking out on the problem. There is a problem. The problem has to do with unlimited number of migrants and there are more to come.
“We have forgotten to just have a proper debate and accept that people have different opinions.”
Anne McElvoy, senior editor of the Economist, today said that this backlash to Merkel’s approach to the border was inevitable:
“Merkel doesn’t talk openly about the difficulties of integration or indeed what her plan is for it or the potential of integration.”
McElvoy went on to make the point that the AfD do not want integration to succeed:
“It’s their basic nightmare for it all go to well.”
McElvoy said that Merkel must stick to her overnight vow to listen more closely to the people of Germany.
“Merkel knows that from the beginning of the refugee wave she didn’t really connect with voters. Whether she can do that this term I think is going to be very difficult.
“She will get the coalition together, she will still run Germany, but the terms of trade have changed.”
McElvoy also said that the AfD’s euroscepticism would be out on a limb in parliament and would not make a material shift in the way Germany approaches the European Union.
She said: “The elites are very strongly behind the EU, the professional classes are largely behind the EU. Germans don’t like to mess with it on the whole because of the terrible history and sense that EU prevents any slip backs.”