Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic party (CDU) suffered yesterday as the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party made gains in Germany’s regional elections.
On a day that is known as ‘super Sunday’ in Germany, residents of Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt went to the ballot box to vote in their state elections. This year the elections were polarised by Europe’s refugee crisis, something that the anti-asylum AfD capitalised heavily on.
The AfD is new on the scene in Germany and was set up in 2013 by Alexander Gauland, Bernd Lucke and Konrad Adam. Initially the party was seen as a right-wing eurosceptic party, however, after the election of Frauke Petry as chair and prior to this most recent election, the party’s rhetoric has increasingly focused on opposing Angela Merkel’s asylum policy.
Comparisons have understandably been drawn between the AfD, France’s Front National and the Freedom Party of Austria, however this is something that the party has been keen to distance itself from. Nonetheless, the politics of Europe is increasingly being shaped by populist parties, the refugee crisis and a changing union, not least in the UK.
Although the AfD succeeded in entering three more state parliaments yesterday, the polarisation of the electorate also resulted in an increase in support for the pro-refugee Green and Social Democrat parties, which came first in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate respectively. In fact, the majority of the overall votes yesterday went to pro-refugee parties, as demonstrated by the table below.
|Social Democrat Party||13%||36%||11%|
|Christian Democrat Union||27%||31%||29%|
|Alternative für Deutschland||24%||13%||24%|
Despite the fact that the CDU only came first in Saxony-Anhalt, Angela Merkel’s asylum policy will not change any time soon. Germany’s borders will remain open and other means of reducing the number of asylum seekers entering the country will be sought. The AfD, meanwhile, will continue to grow and campaign for Germany’s borders to close. They will not, however, be invited to join any coalitions as a result of the regional elections and will likely remain a part of protest.