/German far right surges in eastern elections

German far right surges in eastern elections

Andreas Kalbitz (R), top candidate of the far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany) party for state elections in Brandenburg, is greeted by guests at the beginning of the AfD’s election party on September 1, 2019 in Werder an der Havel near Potsdam, eastern Germany. | Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

The Alternative for Germany made significant gains in Saxony and Brandenburg but failed to win either.

BERLIN — Support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) surged in two state elections in the east of the country as voters disillusioned with Angela Merkel’s government abandoned the center in droves.

Though the AfD didn’t win either state as some had feared, it posted its best-ever result in both, sending a strong message to the Merkel’s centrist coalition in Berlin.

In Saxony, a region of 3.5 million that borders the Czech Republic and Poland, the AfD nearly tripled its result from five years ago to finish second with 27.5 percent, according to early projections published at 6 p.m. by German public broadcaster ARD.

Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU), which have ruled the state since German reunification, nevertheless placed first with 32 percent. Though the party lost nearly one-fifth of its support compared to 2014 result, when the Christian Democrats won 39.4 percent, the result was better than many polls projected.

In Brandenburg, a largely rural state of 2.5 million surrounding Berlin, the AfD finished second behind the ruling Social Democrats (SPD) with 22.5 percent, according to projections. That’s up from the 12.2 percent the AfD won in 2014.

The SPD, which has dominated Brandenburg’s politics for 30 years, garnered 27.5 percent, according to the projections, compared to 31.9 percent in 2014.

Merkel’s party did worse than expected in Brandenburg, winning just 15.5 percent, down from 23 percent in the last election.

The results, though preliminary, appear to confirm a deep fracturing of the electorate in eastern Germany, a development that could make it difficult to build stable coalitions in either state.

Despite the AfD’s strong showing, the far right has almost no chance of joining either of the state governments as all other parties ruled out entering a coalition with them.

Nonetheless, the results underscore the deep frustration in Germany’s east with Merkel’s “grand coalition” between the CDU and the SPD and will therefore resonate across the country’s political landscape.

The Greens also posted major gains in Sunday’s polls, according to the projections — winning 10 percent in Brandenburg, up from 6.2 percent, and 9 percent in Saxony, compared to 5.7 percent in 2014. Despite that success, the results fell short of what most polls projected.

The far-left Linke, traditionally strong in the east, suffered big losses in both states. It fell to 11 percent in Brandenburg, down from 18.6 percent. In Saxony, it finished with 10.5 percent, after 18.9 percent in the last election.

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