Angela Merkel won a fourth term as German chancellor, but Alternative for Germany, the country’s most right-wing party, managed an entry into Parliament, alarming the Jewish community.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc won a lackluster victory in Germany’s national election Sunday while the anti-migrant, nationalist Alternative for Germany party managed a triumphant entry into parliament, projections showed.
Merkel’s main center-left rivals, the Social Democrats, were set for their worst result since World War II. The party, led by Merkel’s challenger Martin Schulz, vowed immediately to leave her coalition government and go into opposition.
The outcome puts Merkel on course for a fourth term as chancellor — but means that she has a tricky task in forming a new coalition government.
Projections for ARD and ZDF public television, based on exit polls and early counting, showed Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and their Bavaria-only allies, the Christian Social Union, winning around 33 percent of the vote — down from 41.5 percent four years ago. It was one of their worst post-war showings.
Schulz’s Social Democrats were seen trailing far behind, with 20-21 percent support. That would be the outright worst post-war for the party, which has served since 2013 as the junior partner in a “grand coalition” of Germany’s biggest parties under Merkel.
Merkel: ‘We Would Have Preferred a Better Result’
Merkel was greeted at her party’s headquarters by supporters applauding and chanting “Angie!”
“Of course, we would have preferred a better result, that is completely clear,” she said. “But we mustn’t forget that we have had an extremely challenging parliamentary term behind us.”
“We have a mandate to form a new government, and no government can be formed against us,” Merkel added. “We want to win back AfD voters by solving problems, by taking account of their concerns and fears, and above all with good policies.”
Smaller parties were the chief beneficiaries of the erosion in support for Germany’s traditionally dominant parties — above all the right-wing Alternative for Germany, or AfD, which was set to win up to 13.5 percent of the vote. AfD capitalized on discontent with established politicians but particularly targeted those angry over the influx of more than one million mostly Muslim migrants into Germany in the past two years under Merkel.
‘We Will Take Our Country Back,’ AfD Leader Vows
AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland vowed that “we will take our country back” and promised to “chase” Merkel.
“This is a big day in our party’s history. We have entered the Bundestag and we will change this country,” Gauland said.
Big cheers went up at AfD’s election party after exit polls showed them finishing in third place. Some supporters chanted “AfD! AfD!” and others started singing the German national anthem.
Major Jewish groups are expressing alarm and dismay that the anti-migrant AfD has won seats in Germany’s parliament.
German Central Council of Jews President Josef Schuster says the party “tolerates far-right thoughts and agitates against minorities.”
He said he expects Germany’s other parties will “reveal the true face of the AfD and unmask their empty, populist promises.”
WJC Says AfD ‘Recalls the Worst of Germany’s Past’
The head of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, congratulated Merkel on securing a fourth term, calling her a “true friend of Israel and the Jewish people.” He denounced AfD as “a disgraceful reactionary movement which recalls the worst of Germany’s past.”
Among the AfD remarks condemned by Jewish groups, co-leader Alexander Gauland recently said no other country has faced up to past crimes the way Germany has and the Nazi years “today don’t affect our identity anymore.”
Mainstream parties’ leaders vowed a robust response to AfD’s entry into parliament. Greens co-leader Katrin Goering-Eckardt told supporters: “there will again be Nazis sitting in parliament.”
“We will not let one single attack on German democracy stand,” she said, to applause.
Merkel has over the years pulled her party toward the center, but may now face new pressure for a more robust conservative image.
An often-awkward conservative ally, Bavarian Governor Horst Seehofer, who has long called for a fixed annual cap on the number of migrants that Germany accepts, said the result Sunday shows that the conservatives have “an open flank to the right.”
“It is particularly important that we close this flank with … clear political positions,” he said.