German Trumps Score Latest Gain in Berlin Elections

As Merkel steadfastly insists she will not limit the number of refugees entering Germany this year, the AfD grows in strength and numbers. How it fares at the polls next year will surely be a defining chapter in the saga of reunified Germany.

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By John Gizzi l September 19, 2016

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Much like Donald Trump’s string of victories in Republican presidential primaries this year, Germany’s new and controversial Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has had an outstanding year in provincial elections.

Running on a platform of opposition to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s highly unpopular acceptance of more than one million refugees and critical of the European Union, the AfD racked up vote percentages in double digits and won seats in elections for four different state parliaments since March.

This is particularly impressive since the party did not exist until three years ago.

On Sunday, however, the so-called “German Trumps” made perhaps their most newsworthy gain by winning seats in the city-state parliament of Berlin for the first time.

For German politics and Europe in general, these returns packed a wallop. In terms of gaining new turf, the AfD demonstrated it could win in an urban constituency just as it did September 4 in bucolic Mecklenberg-Vorpommern—coincidentally, Merkel’s home ground.

“It did well, especially because Berlin is predominantly a center-left city,” Martin Klingst, political correspondent for the venerable German Publication, Die Zeit, told me, “AfD’s success is partly due to the growing dissatisfaction with the main parties, especially with the grand coalition that has governed Berlin for the past five years and wasn’t able to manage the refugee flow and the construction of the new airport. Just to name two failures.”

Klingst continued, “According to the polls, only 35 percent of the AfD voters voted for this party because they like it, while 65 percent cast their vote only because they are dissatisfied with the establishment parties.

Perhaps more significantly, the AfD demonstrated once again that—like Trump and Brexit (the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union) that Britons enacted earlier this year—they are attracting new voters and some who have not voted in years.

Of the AfD vote in Berlin, it is estimated that roughly 19 per cent of its votes came from the CDU, 11 per cent from the SPD, and a whopping 32.5 percent were “non-voters.”

The overall turnout in Berlin Sunday was 66 per cent, or up 6 percent from its last elections in 2011.

The breakdown of the final vote demonstrates that, almost inarguably, the AfD will be a factor in national elections in 2017, when Merkel is expected to lead the CDU to the polls for the fourth straight time

In drawing a never-expected 14 percent of the vote in Berlin, the AfD not only won well above the 5 percent threshold and came perilously close to the 17.5 percent won by Merkel’s CDU (conservative) Party.

As expected, the SPD (Socialist) Party, which governs Berlin with the CDU in a “grand coalition” that is a mirror of the federal coalition headed by Merkel, topped the field with 21.6 per cent. But both the SPD and the CDU dropped 6.7 percent and 5.8 percent respectively in their showings from the last Berlin election.

That means that the CDU is almost sure to be dropped from the governing coalition at City Hall and SPD Mayor Michael Mueller will have to “shift lift” for new partners—most likely, the Greens and the Linke (left) Party, many of whose members are former Communists.

As Merkel steadfastly insists she will not limit the number of refugees entering Germany this year, the AfD grows in strength and numbers. How it fares at the polls next year will surely be a defining chapter in the saga of reunified Germany.


John Gizzi is the White House correspondent and chief political columnist for Newsmax. He is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.

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