Sidelined by opponents, Germany’s Far-Right AfD Bides Time

Sidelined by opponents, Germany’s Far-Right AfD Bides Time

“Some constituencies might see a close race between the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats and AfD,” said Traeger.

Migration is a side issue in this year’s German election campaign, but that hasn’t stopped the country’s biggest far-right party from trying to play it up. The party rattled Germany’s political establishment four years ago, when it came third in parliamentary elections after stoking anti-migrant sentiment over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to allow hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty into the country. Current polls indicate that the party could struggle to hold the 12.6% share it got in the last election. But experts say even a low two-digit result could well pose a headache for other parties. That would force them to form larger and more cumbersome coalitions to secure a majority.

Small shifts in voting patterns of just a few hundred ballots could swing marginal constituencies in unexpected ways, making some coalitions at the national level harder or impossible, he said.

AfD’s co-leader, Tino Chrupalla, has no illusions that his party will win big on Sept. 26. But he’s confident that it can enter government in one of Germany’s 16 states in the coming years.

Armin Laschet, who leads the center-right Union bloc, has said his party will not ally with AfD, which opposes the government’s coronavirus policies, has a cozy relationship with Russia and wants Germany to quit the European Union.

That pledge will be put to the test in eastern states such as Saxony, where AfD came a strong second with 27.5% of the vote in a state election two years ago.

“I’m pretty confident that sooner or later there’s no way around Alternative for Germany,” Chrupalla told reporters Wednesday. “That will certainly happen first in a state parliament.”

Chrupalla said he already has a lot of contact with Union politicians and sees common ground with candidates such as Hans-Georg Maassen, Germany’s former domestic intelligence chief now running for a seat in parliament’s lower house, the Bundestag, on an anti-immigration platform. Many in Maassen’s party aren’t happy about his candidacy.

“Of course there are many positions where I can agree with Mr. Maassen,” said Chrupalla. “And conversely, he could do so with many of our positions.”

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