|Berlin rally, Nov. 2015, getty|
"If you think Donald Trump has some outrageous ideas, wait until you meet Germany’s AfD party.
The Alternative for Germany, to give the party its full name, has shaken up the country’s consensus-driven politics with headline-grabbing policies that include telling Germans to have more children to avoid the need for immigration. Frauke Petry, the AfD’s co-leader, has said that police must “prevent illegal border crossings, using firearms if necessary.”
Like Trump, her rhetoric hasn’t damaged AfD support but rather struck a chord with those disgruntled with the establishment parties, in particular nabbing voters unhappy with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy for refugees. The party surged to record support in Sunday’s regional elections, taking seats in all three states that voted and boosting its representation to half of Germany’s 16 state assemblies. The AfD had its strongest showing in Saxony-Anhalt with 24.3 percent, making it the second-biggest party in the former communist eastern state, according to TV projections. [Saxony-Anhalt 10.8 jobless, map].
The rise of the AfD in Germany mirrors growing support for populist politicians such as National Front leader Marine Le Pen in France and Trump, who has called for banning Muslims from emigrating to the U.S. [temporarily]. Like Trump, Petry spars regularly with the media that follows her every word. One German newspaper even ran a quiz asking readers to attribute statements to Trump or Petry.
‘Fundamental Problems’“We have fundamental problems in Germany that led to this outcome,” Petry said on broadcaster ARD Sunday to explain the party’s surge. “Now we want to force the other parties into a substantive debate.”
The German political establishment is having none of it, vowing instead to band together to keep the AfD out of government. Petry has responded by saying her party plans to take on an opposition role to push AfD policies in the face of what they see as a cartel of established politicians.
The AfD began in 2013 out of opposition to the euro and taxpayer-funded bailouts of countries such as Greece. Co-founder Bernd Lucke, an economics professor who focused the party on the euro, quit last year after losing a power struggle with rivals including Petry, 40, an East German-born chemist. The AfD failed to win seats in the German parliament in 2013, though it entered the European Parliament the following year. It still wants to dissolve the 19-nation euro area.
Holocaust GuiltSeveral senior party members are defectors from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union who view her as pulling the party to the political left. Petry has urged Germans to have three children to reduce the need for immigration and suggested German policy is driven by Holocaust guilt.
The party wants restrictions on political asylum, stronger enforcement of existing laws -- including deportations of refugees who don’t qualify for asylum -- and demands that the government “protect the national identity,” according to a resolution passed at a party convention in November. Its campaign platform for Baden-Wuerttemberg calls the governing parties “saboteurs of our state and our society” and says the AfD is the voice of the “awakening resistance of the bourgeoisie.”
The AfD result in Saxony-Anhalt is the latest upset in a region that has a tradition of voting for radical groups. Support for the anti-capitalist Left Party peaked at 24.1 percent in 2006, while surveys over the next five years consistently showed about 5 percent or more backing for the far-right National Party of Germany, or NPD. The German People’s Union, or DVU, won seats in the regional assembly in Magdeburg in 1998 after taking 12.9 percent with a nationalist, anti-immigration platform.
Along with the surge in the eastern state, the AfD won double-digit backing in the two western regions that voted Sunday. The party received 15.1 percent support in Baden-Wuerttemberg and 12.4 percent in Rhineland-Palatinate, according to projections. The threshold to receive seats in 5 percent.
“The AfD is now more established and will probably have more staying power than its predecessors,” Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank, said in a note. But even after doing well in regional protest votes, the party “would remain light years away from any position of influence.”"
Image caption: "Supporters of the Alternative fuer Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) political party hold a rally in Berlin in November 2015. Photographer: Carsten Koall/Getty Images."
Additional Bloomberg article includes Germany jobless map:
3/13/16, "Merkel's CDU Loses Support in Elections Swayed by Refugee Crisis," Bloomberg, Patrick Donahue, Rainer Buergin, Arne Delfs
"Chancellor Angela Merkel faces an increasingly splintered political landscape after voters punished her party and lifted the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany to its best showing yet in three state elections dominated by the refugee crisis.
Support for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union tumbled across the board Sunday as her candidates failed to capture two western states including Baden-Wuerttemberg, home to carmaker Daimler AG. Her party hung on to win the most votes in Saxony-Anhalt [10.8 jobless, per map] in the formerly communist east, though Alternative for Germany, or AfD, upended the coalition math there by winning about 24 percent support in its first attempt in the state."...
German regional jobless rate map from Bloomberg.