German Populists Surpass Merkel Party in Regional Elections

BERLIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 28: Bjoern Hoecke, Thuringia candidate of the right-wing Alterna
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) relegated the Christian Democratic Union of German Chancellor Angela Merkel into third place as they saw a surge of support in the region of Thuringia.

The regional branch of the AfD in Thuringia, led by firebrand politician Björn Höcke, managed to score 23.4 per cent of the vote on Sunday, coming second to the far-left Die Linke, a descendant of the former East German (DDR) Communist Party who won 31 per cent, Deutsche Welle reports.

The result left the CDU of Chancellor Merkel in third place with 21.8 per cent of the vote, a big defeat for the German leader and her party who have previously been beaten by the AfD in other eastern regions like Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in 2016 and in Brandenburg in early 2019.

Mr Höcke, who has been known for several controversial remarks in the past, commented on the Thuringia result saying, “This is a clear sign that a large part of Thuringia says: ‘This can’t go on’,” and added, “We need renewal — this should be taken seriously.”

While the AfD has achieved strong results in the East of the country — formerly occupied by the Soviets until 1989 and in part down to this more conservatively minded today — no parties have so far publically expressed a desire to form a coalition government with them.

However, among the Thuringia CDU there are disagreements on how to approach the populists with CDU member Michael Heym leaving the possibility of cooperation with the AfD on the negotiating table, saying that a coalition between his party, the AfD and the libertarian Free Democrats could be possible under certain conditions.

Members of the CDU have also been highly critical of party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer who took over the party leadership from Chancellor Merkel last year.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, known simply as AKK in Germany, rebuffed her critics saying that she planned to stay on as leader of the party and that she was committed to remaining leader until the party’s annual conference in 2020 at least but added that she took some responsibility for the poor result.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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