• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Hard right stuns with huge election gains in Frankfurt
Frankfurt town hall. Photo: DPA

Hard right stuns with huge election gains in Frankfurt

The Local · 7 Mar 2016, 12:59

Published: 07 Mar 2016 12:59 GMT+01:00
Updated: 07 Mar 2016 12:59 GMT+01:00

Confirming polling which shows that the AfD have hugely increased their share of the vote since Germany decided to open its doors to refugees in late August 2015, the right-wing party won on average 13.2 percent of votes at local election in the central German state of Hesse on Sunday.

This result made the AfD the third largest party behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), who won 28.2 percent and 28.0 percent respectively, Hessischer Rundfunk reports.

Both of Germany’s largest political parties lost a substantial share of the vote from the last elections.

In Hesse’s capital Wiesbaden, the AfD scored a particular success, winning 16.2 percent of the vote.

But it is the result in Frankfurt, a global financial centre with a cosmopolitan population, which in many ways came as a surprise.

Up until this point the AfD has largely won votes in economically marginalized areas such as the states of former East Germany.

The AfD’s previous best election result was 12.2 percent of the vote in 2014 state elections in the eastern state of Brandenburg, one of the poorest regions in Germany.

In former West Germany, the AfD had previously struggled to make the 5 percent cut of votes necessary to make it into a state parliament, scoring a best of 6.1 percent in Hamburg in 2015.

While the AfD were born as a single issue party in 2013, fighting to dismantle the European single currency, they lurched to the right in the summer of 2015 when party members toppled founder and economics professor, Bernd Lucke.

In recent months the party’s new leadership has caused outrage by suggesting that it is acceptable to shoot at immigrants who cross into Germany illegally.

With major state elections coming up in three German states in mid-March, the results also act as a shot across the bow of the CDU and SPD which both support an open-door refugee policy.

‘Terrifying result’

"It’s terrifying," Eva Högl, vice chairwoman of SPD in the national parliament, told broadcaster ARD, saying the AfD are following an "unspeakable course”.

“If they enter the state parliaments with double digits and maybe even the federal parliament, this will change the whole German community in a very negative way.

“Elections are way too important to teach someone a lesson - it is about forming our society and democracy."

"The traditional parties are paying the price for the voters' protest,” Manfred Pentz, CDU secretary general of Hesse, told to the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Monday.

Neo-Nazi party win 17 percent in one district

The success of the AfD was not the only result to send shock waves through the political establishment.

The neo-Nazi NPD party managed to win 17 percent in Leun, making them the third largest party in the 6,000-inhabitant town.

They also won 14 percent of the vote in Büdingen, a town of 21,000 people which also has the largest refugee shelter in Hesse.

At the last local elections, the NPD only managed to win 2 percent of the vote in Büdingen. Statewide, though, the NPD scored a much less impressive 0.3 percent of the vote.

'Search for easy answers'

Story continues below…

Benno Hafeneger, a professor at the Philipp University of Marburg who specializes in right-wing extremism, told The Local that the AfD’s success was due to "a search for fast, easy answers".

"People are frightened by something they don’t know a thing about and the traditional parties don’t represent the voters anymore," he argued.

“Our studies show that we have about 10 to 15 percent of people who are right-wing extremists [in Germany] - sometimes even more. But until now this never showed up in any vote," Hafeneger said.

“What does surprise me is the dimension which can be seen in the election. About 5 to 10 percent is typically for protest voters - in local elections especially you normally don’t see the protest voters.

"The biggest surprise of all is, in the places where the AfD did not compete, the voters chose the NPD instead - so it seems to be not about the party itself, it is more about setting a statement,” Hafeneger went on.

How long the AfD could thrive would be contingent on the success with which Germany handles the refugee crisis, the academic said, adding that at this stage no one can tell whether they can establish themselves as a real political force.

With reporting by Raphael Warnke

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Today's headlines
'We'll freeze Turkey talks' warns EU as arrests continue
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a radical purge against anyone suspected of complicity in the coup attempt. Photo: DPA

As Turkish authorities on Friday widened their sweeping post-coup crackdown to the business sector, the European Union's enlargement commissioner implicitly warned that the bloc would freeze Turkey's accession talks if the crackdown violated the rule of law.

I’m ashamed of Germany’s refugee failure: Green leader
Cem Özdemir. Photo: DPA

The head of the Green Party has responded angrily to Angela Merkel’s speech on refugees on Friday, saying he feels “ashamed at Germany’s failure".

German satirists mock Erdogan (and his penis)
Photo: DPA

Tempting fate?

Huge pro-Erdogan rally puts strain on Turkish community
Erdogan supporters at a rally in 2014. Photo: DPA

Tens of thousands of supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plan to rally in Cologne on Sunday, as tensions over Turkey's failed coup have put German authorities on edge.

Opinion
How the Berlin startup scene is wasting its potential
Photo: DPA

"The truth is, there really isn't a truly successful international Berlin startup."

Five years' jail for German darknet weapons dealer
Photo: DPA

He had sold weapons to known Isis-sympathizers and far-right extremists.

Prickly Bavarian calls out cops on hedgehogs' noisy sex
Photo: DPA

Caught in the act.

International or German state school - which one's best?
Photo: DPA

Deciding between sending your child to a German state school or a private international school isn't easy. Max Bringmann has experienced both.

13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make

Sure-fire ways to get off on the wrong foot in the German language.

Captain Schweinsteiger retires from international football
Bastian Schweinsteiger. Photo: DPA

He has won a World Cup with Die Mannschaft and captained them at Euro 2016. On Friday Bastian Schweinsteiger announced his retirement from the national team.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
DPA
Gallery
IN PICTURES: How Munich responded to shooting spree
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
10,718
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd