“Seventy years after the end of the war, Neo-Nazis enter the Bundestag again.”
The populist nationalist AfD is not like the other parties. Asselborn said that right wing parties had found increasing support in many European countries over the past few years. “When this happens in Germany, because of the history it raises even more fears.”
He called on all democratic parties to stand together, whether they are in opposition or in government.
The party is barely five years old, and narrowly missed the 5% threshold required to enter the Bundestag in 2013. Founded by Eurosceptics and people who wanted to show that there were alternatives to Merkel’s policies during the financial crisis, the party is now “a broad church of naysayers” which “fishes on the right.”
In the German federal elections on Sunday 24 September, the AfD scored a staggering 12.6%. It is the third largest party in the federal parliament, with 94 MPs out of 709.
Voter migration and profile
The AfD managed to convince 1.2 million previous non-voters (that includes first time voters) to vote for them. The second biggest group of AfD voters came from those who had previously supported the CDU/CSU (980,000), followed by other smaller parties (690,000), and previous voters of the left of centre SPD (470,000) and Linke (400,000).
The AfD performed best in the east, where it scored 20.5%. In Saxony, the party scored 27% and is just ahead of the CDU. In Bavaria, the CSU (a sister party of the CDU) suffered big losses to the AfD and only scored 38.8% of the vote. The AfD polled 12.4%.
In total, 14% of men and 8% of women voted for the AfD in the west. In the east, every 4th man voted for the AfD (26%), compared to 17% of women. It scored lowest in Hamburg (7.8%).
However, the party has managed to tap into fears about the future, and especially with regards to the recent influx of refugees and migrants into Germany. Opposition to Merkel’s refugee policy remains the main element that keeps the party together, and was a major reason cited for voting AfD. Nevertheless, among the overall electorate, 45% are satisfied with Merkel’s refugee policy.
99% of the populace thinks that the AfD “has understood better than others that many people don’t feel safe anymore", and think it’s good that the party wants to decrease the influence of Islam, and to restrict the arrival of refugees. Angela Merkel vowed on election night that she would strive to bring those voters back into the fold. The CSU interior minister Joachim Herrmann said that his party needed to "close the right flank" again.
A day after the election, party leader Frauke Petry caused a major éclat when she announced that she would sit as an independent in the Bundestag. On Tuesday 26 September, she announced she was leaving the AfD. The party is likely to suffer from more infighting between the more liberal wing and the radical right wing of its parliamentary group. Most of its new MPs have no parliamentary or legal experience and will likely find it difficult to adapt to the daily grind of parliamentary committees and sessions.