Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, braced on Monday for more political turbulence after the Christian Social Union (CSU), a party which has been long-allied with Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), suffered a humiliating defeat in Bavarian regional elections.
Fringe parties, such as the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, by contrast, came away from the elections victorious.
On Sunday, the CSU recorded its worst election performance in Bavaria for more than six decades, securing only 37.2 percent of the vote, meaning it will have to govern Bavaria as part of a coalition for the first time since World War Two. The centre-left Social-Democratic Party (SPD), who nationally have formed a governing coalition with Merkel’s party, also had a terrible performance, dropping by more than 10 points.
Groups at the outer edges of the political spectrum, meanwhile, were more successful. The pro-immigration Greens party got 17.5 percent of the vote while the far-right AfD won 10.2 percent of the vote, meaning that it will sit in the Bavarian parliament for the first time. AfD now has seats in 15 of the state’s 16 state parliaments.
While the election was regional, the fact that Merkel’s establishment allies suffered such a humiliating electoral result — in a region which has historically extremely rich and conservative — shows her fading political capital and the unsustainability of the coalition she formed to govern after a Pyrrhic victory in national elections in September.
Looming overhead now is the growing specter of the far-right in Germany, most prominently seen with AfD, the official opposition party in the Bundestag (German Parliament). The AfD is rabidly anti-immigrant, with party leader Alexander Gauland previously talking of fighting an “invasion of foreigners.” AfD also has an explicitly anti-Islamic rhetoric, is against the EU and has adopted the Nazi-era phrase Lügenpresse (meaning “lying press”).
This poster for the upcoming Bavarian elections is: Wow. pic.twitter.com/caUveFxfMk
— Moira Weigel (@moiragweigel) September 7, 2018
AfD political leaders in August rubbed shoulders with more extreme far-right groups who descended upon the eastern German city of Chemnitz to protest after a local German man was stabbed in the city center, allegedly by two immigrant men.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the far-right organized a series of counter-demonstrations, some of which involved reportedly attacking anyone who did not look German. AfD, however, encouraged the vigilantism, with politician Markus Frohnmaier tweeting, “Today it is the citizens’ duty to stop the [death-bringing] ‘knife migration!'”
As if to further emphasize the lurking threat of the far-right in Germany, more than 100,000 people took to the streets of Berlin this weekend to protest the increased influence of the far-right — surprising even organizers with their turnout.