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In The News

German nationalists win Bundestag seats with record high vote

AfD candidate for Chancellor Alexander Gauland has led the party into the Bundestag for the first time with more than 80 MPs

The German anti-immigration party Alternative for Deutschland (AfD – Alternative for Germany) has won seats for the first time in the country’s national parliament, the Bundestag, polling 12.6% of the nationwide vote.

German general elections are a combination of Westminster-style constituencies (where an MP is elected first-past-the-post) and a proportional list-based system.  Voters choose both an MP for their locality, and express a preference for a party. After each directly elected MP has been chosen, the rest of the Bundestag is drawn from various party lists so that its final composition matches the proportion of votes for each party (with a threshold of 5% of the national vote, below which a party gets no MPs at all).

Frauke Petry, co-leader of Alternative for Germany, has won her constituency in Saxony and will be one of a projected 88 AfD MPs.

AfD’s co-leader Frauke Petry has won her constituency in Saxony, top of the poll with 37.4% and gaining the district from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU.  Two of Mrs Petry’s AfD colleagues in neighbouring Saxony districts were also directly elected – and at 2 a.m. German time came the sensational news that AfD is now the largest party in Saxony as a whole with almost 670,000 votes (27.0%) in this region of former East Germany! At a press conference the morning after this stunning result, Frauke Petry unfortunately distracted from the party’s success by announcing that she would not sit with AfD in the Bundestag. She then walked out of the press conference leaving party colleagues surprised and embarrassed. The party will hope not to be blighted by further displays of political immaturity.

AfD’s 12.6% vote was a significant improvement on polls at the start of the campaign that had put the party below 10%. This will make AfD the third largest party in the Bundestag: they are now projected to have 88 MPs but the precise total will depend detailed calculations not yet complete, due to the electoral system. Conservative Chancellor Merkel and her ex-coalition partners, the social-democratic SPD, have each polled lower than expected. Merkel will now struggle to form a viable coalition government, and will have to enter talks with both the liberal FDP and the Greens.

Exit poll shows that AfD is now the most popular party among male voters in the former East Germany

Merkel’s CDU/CSU polled 33.0%, down 9% from the previous election in 2013.  The SPD was second on 20.5%, down 5.2% and a record postwar low, despite having enjoyed a brief boost in the polls earlier this year. AfD were third with 12.6%, up 7.9%. The liberal FDP (on various occasions postwar coalition partners with either CDU/CSU or SPD) will be back in the Bundestag with 10.7% (up 5.9%) after losing all their MPs in 2013. The Left Party (ex-communists and left-wing former SPD members) managed 9.2% (up 0.6%) and the Greens are similarly almost unchanged from last time with 8.9% (up 0.5%).

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s pro-immigration policies have cost her party millions of votes

A few days ago in one of his final campaign speeches, AfD’s lead candidate Alexander Gauland said that Germans had the right to be proud of their soldiers’ record in the two 20th century world wars:

“If the French are rightly proud of their emperor and the Britons of Nelson and Churchill, we have the right to be proud of the achievements of the German soldiers in two world wars.”

Many journalists worldwide have been writing that AfD will be the first “far right” party to gain seats in the postwar German Bundestag.  However the Guardian’s Berlin correspondent Philip Oltermann points out that at the very first Bundestag election in 1949 the Deutsche Rechtspartei (DRP – German Right Party), sometimes known as the German Conservative Party (DKP), won five seats.

This party suffered various splits, with some of its MPs joining the Socialist Reich Party (SRP) which was banned in 1952.

Ace fighter pilot and postwar nationalist politician Hans-Ulrich Rudel (third from left) at a social event in Munich, September 1968, with (left to right) Freda Jones, Ursula Rudel, John Tyndall, Beryl Cheetham, Savitri Devi and Joe Jones

Some others then joined the Deutsche Reichspartei (German Reich Party, or German Empire Party, confusingly also abbreviated as DRP) which developed links with Sir Oswald Mosley and included Luftwaffe ace Hans-Ulrich Rudel among its members.  This DRP never won Bundestag seats, though did win representation in the Rhineland-Palatinate Landtag.
 
The NPD of course never won a Bundestag seat, though again winning various Landtag seats, and polling a peak of 3.6% at the 1969 Bundestag election.
 
The Deutsche Partei (German Party, DP) was a more respectable version of nationalism and had Bundestag seats from 1949 to 1961: indeed the DP was a coalition partner with the conservative CDU and CSU until 1960.
 
In 1960 the DP merged with the GB/BHE (a party representing Germans expelled from the eastern territories) to form the All-German Party (GDP), but this new merged party failed to win Bundestag seats at the 1961 election, and quickly faded, with several of its leading activists co-founding the new NPD in 1964.
 
Schönhuber’s Republikaner (Republican) party, which had its big success at the 1989 European election with 6 MEPs, never entered the Bundestag: its best result was 2.1% in 1990.  At the founding of the Republikaner in 1983 as a split from the Bavarian conservative CSU, they had two Bundestag MPs (who had been elected as CSU) but by the time of the next Bundestag election in 1987 these two had quit the party and Schönhuber decided the party was too weak to contest those elections.

Thirty years on, German politics has been transformed. Today’s front pages convey the liberal establishment’s horror.

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