Angela Merkel’s Win Poses Unconscious Victory for the Alt-Right Underdog
Following the results of the 2017 German elections, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) once again captured victory. However, according to BBC Berlin correspondent Jenny Hill, the atmosphere at the CDU headquarters in Berlin on the morning of September 27 seemed “a little hollow.”
Across town, amidst a sea of balloons flying the party colors, the nationalist party, known as Alternative for Germany (AFD) celebrated their unprecedented rise to becoming the Bundestag’s third largest party.
The populist right party, known for its anti-immigration rhetoric, outshined both the Greens (Grüne) and the Radical Left (Die Linke) parties, taking 12.6 percent of votes, according to results reported by The Guardian on September 25th. This percentage translates into roughly 13 seats in parliament. Most of the alt-right’s supportive clout originated in Saxony, a German state located south of Berlin.
Compared to the 34 seats held by Merkel’s CDU, and the 21 held by the Social Democratic Party (SPD), AFD’s overall stake and influence in the Bundestag is decidedly small. Should the CDU and SPD once again form a parliamentary partnership known as the “Grand Coalition” (Große Koalition), the two parties will control over 50 percent of seats. Another nearly equally powerful alternative for Merkel is the “Jamaica” coalition, consisting of the CDU, Green Party, and the FDP, a pro-business party.
Either way, Germany’s largest and most centrist parties remain in the driver’s seat. So, what explains AFD’s fanfare for securing a distant third place?
It all comes down to numbers. The AFD has more than doubled its percentage of the popular vote since the 2013 election, while the CDU saw a decrease in its percentage of over eight percent. Additionally, the SPD saw a decrease of over four percent, its worst turnout since World War II.
Despite their limited influence, the AFD’s hike in popularity is impossible to ignore, and sets an alarming tone for Germans irked by the party’s pro-Germany, anti-European Union rhetoric. The sudden rise of support of alt-right parties is nothing new to the European political theater.
While outwardly disappointed by election results, Marine Le Pen’s Front National garnered 8.8 percent of the French popular vote this past spring. Front National also won the party an additional two seats in parliament from the previous election.
Whether or not AFD’s exponential growth in popularity is a long term trend for centrists to reckon with, their rhetoric now has an official place on the stage of the German establishment.