“We are the force that’s renewing the political landscape,” claimed an ecstatic Bernd Lucke, leader of Germany’s Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party which this weekend secured gains in two eastern German state elections.
The electoral wins will cause German Chancellor Angela Merkel further headaches as the party’s growing success undermines the position of her conservative Christian Democrat Party (CDU).
AfD polled 10 percent of the vote in Thuringia and 12 percent in Bradenburg, according to preliminary results, The Local has reported, making it the fourth largest group in each state parliament.
“One can’t deny it anymore: the citizens are thirsting for political change,” said Lucke. The results come just two weeks after the party made similar gains in Saxony, taking 9.7 percent of that vote. The threshold required to win seats is normally around five percent.
Two weeks ago Breitbart London reported that Frauke Petry, who led the Saxony campaign, said the result was “a sign that Frau Merkel should finally take the AfD seriously,” a demand that will only be reinforced by this weekend’s results.
AfD – which is often compared to Britain’s ‘UK Independence Party’ (UKIP) – was formed just one year ago by breakaway members of the Christian Democrats. In its short lifetime the party has already won seven seats in the European Parliamentary elections, and although it narrowly missed out on seats in Germany’s federal parliament, gains in the regional parliamentary elections will be widely seen as a base on which to build national success.
“People want to voice their discontent,” said Michael Wohlgemuth, director of the think tank Open Europe Berlin. “The AfD has used a mix of topics to draw support, from fears of immigration to family values, and it has worked well with voters coming from the left and the right.”
“It is a problem for Merkel that will not disappear soon. She has left some room on the right both in terms of economic and social policy. The AfD are likely to make it into many more states.”
Like UKIP, the AfD has also drawn criticism for being populist and veering further to the right thanks to policies that include calling for a referendum on whether a new mosque should be built in Dresden. The party also advocates Germany dropping the Euro and returning to the Deutschmark, although it stops short of calling for a dismantling of the European Union. In the European Parliament its MEPs sit with British Conservatives in the European Conservatives and Reformist Group, which seeks to renegotiate the terms of EU membership but not an end to the European project.
“It’s not the AfD that should ask itself where it stands, but the CDU that needs to ask whether it hasn’t become a left-wing party,” said Petry.
The party is also often disparagingly called a “party of professors” and a “bourgeois party of protest” thanks to being set up by a group of academics and economists. However, the slurs have done nothing to slow their meteoric rise, thanks to their willingness to say what the other parties are afraid to say.