AfD emerges as a major political force in the former Communist east.
A rebellion has broken out in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU) after it suffered defeat in a regional election on Sunday.
The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) surged ahead of the ruling CDU to second place in the eastern state of Thuringia.
German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported the latest election drubbing received by country’s ruling party:
Merkel’s CDU suffered the greatest loss during Sunday’s election, dropping down 11% from 2014. The result is a heavy blow for the center-right party and a win for the AfD, which had eyed the CDU’s disillusioned supporters.
Projections showed that the AfD pulled the most support from voters who did not participate in Thuringia’s last state election, followed by voters who previously voted for the CDU, according to initial projections.
The CDU’s top candidate, Mike Mohring, lamented the “bitter result” of centrist parties not being able to form a majority.
The troubles for Merkel started late Sunday after senior CDU politicians publicly mulled forming a coalition government with the Linke Party, the successor of the East German Communist party, in Thuringia state.
Friedrich Merz, the CDU leadership contender, placed the blame for the party’s disastrous performance squarely on Merkel. The defeat on Sunday was a “big vote of no-confidence for the coalition in Berlin (a reference to the Merkel’s government),” Merz said.
The Merkel-led CDU have been beaten in no less than 13 states since Merkel opened Germany’s border to illegal migrant in the wake of the so-called “refugee crisis.”
Werte Union, the conservative wing of the CDU, came out openly against Merkel, calling her a “problem” for the party.
“After losing 13 elections since allowing the uncontrolled mass-migration: This should be clear to every last member of the CDU that the bigger problem of the party is sitting in the Chancellor’s office,” said Alexander Mitsch, chairman of the Werte Union.
“From the viewpoint of the Werte Union, there should be no coalition talks with the Linke party, the successor of the East German Communist party,” The wing said in a statement, rejecting any alliance with the communists. “Otherwise the CDU will lose its credibility completely.”
The current rebellion does not threaten Merkel herself, who intends to remain in office till the end of her term in 2021. It could seriously jeopardize the election prospects of her handpicked successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is increasingly losing support within the party.
Conservative commentators also slammed Merkel for wreaking Germany’s once-proud Christian Democratic party.
“One must say this with all clarity: there is only one trend for the party of Helmut Kohl [Germany’s former Chancellor] — that’s downwards,” Ralf Schuler wrote in the Bild newspaper.
“There is an elephant in the room, actually an unmissable white elephant,” German magazine Tichys Einblick commented after the Sunday’s result, referring to Merkel and her policies. “The CDU doesn’t need to worry about the rise of the AfD or the other political rivals, their main “problem is sitting in the Chancellor’s office,” the magazine said, echoing the sentiments of the conservative rebels.
The CDU’s bitter loss has been AfD’s gain. In the 2017 general election, the right-wing party emerged as the biggest opposition group in the German parliament after some 2.5 million conservative voters abandoned Merkel’s party.
AfD is trending as the third-strongest force in the polls. In former East German states, the party has challenged the hegemony of the CDU, establishing itself firmly at the second spot. In last month’s election, the right-wing party made huge gains in the east, coming out a strong second by getting 27.5 percent in the state of Saxony and 23.5 in the Brandenburg region.
CDU’s membership dropped as well, with a large number of long-time members shifting their loyalty to AfD. The party lost some 80,000 members and functionary since 2011.
Despite AfD’s impressive gains, the party has failed to form government at the state level. The mainstream parties like CDU, the Greens, and the Social Democrats, have sworn not to work with the “populist” rival.
With Merkel stepping down at the end of her term, the CDU faces a grim prospect for the next election. The party has moved so far to the left, that it has no other options but to align itself with the socialist and greens in future elections. This will only alienate the party’s conservative base further. The current rebellion could well be the party’s last-ditch effort to save its Christian conservative core.
Right-wing AfD surges in regional elections
[Cover image via YouTube]
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