Alice Weidel (R), top candidate of the anti-immigration party Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) reacts after first exit polls in the German general election (Bundestagswahl) in Berlin, Germany, September 24, 2017. .
(photo credit: WOLFGANG RATTAY / REUTERS)
The European Jewish Congress on Sunday expressed alarm at the far-right Alternative for Germany Party’s success in that nation’s parliamentary election and urged other parties not to form an alliance with the AfD.
The far-Right has not been represented there since the 1950s – a reflection of Germany’s efforts to distance itself from the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust.
The Jewish group, which is the representative organization of European Jewry, congratulated Chancellor Angela Merkel on her results but said that it was “concerned by the strong showing of the far-right Alternative for Germany Party, which appears to have received more than 13% of the vote, according to exit polls.”
The group also said that it that it hoped “centrist parties in the Bundestag will ensure that the AfD has no representation in the coming governing coalition.”
It added that “some of the positions [AfD] has espoused during the election campaign display alarming levels of intolerance not seen in Germany for many decades and which are, of course, of great concerns to German and she must now form a coalition, an arduous process that could take months.
Immediately after the release of exit polls, the deputy party leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in a “grand coalition” with Merkel’s conservatives for the last four years, said her party would now go into opposition.
“For us, the grand coalition ends today,” Manuela Schwesig told ZDF broadcaster.
“For us it’s clear that we’ll go into opposition as demanded by the voter.”
Without the SPD, Merkel’s only straightforward path to a majority in parliament would be a three-way tie-up with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens – known as a “Jamaica” coalition because the black, yellow and green colors of the three parties match the Jamaican flag.
Such an arrangement is untested at the national level in Germany and widely seen as inherently unstable.
Both the FDP and the Greens have played down the prospect of a three-way coalition, but neither won enough seats on Sunday to give Merkel a majority on its own.
Whatever the make-up of her coalition, Merkel, 63, faces four years of government in a fragmented parliament after the return of the FDP – unrepresented at national level for the last four years – and the arrival of the AfD.
Founded in 2013 by an anti-euro group of academics, the AfD has surged as an anti-immigrant group in the wake of Merkel’s 2015 decision to leave German borders open to over a million migrants, most of them fleeing war in the Middle East.
The party’s entry into the national parliament heralds the beginning of a new era in German politics that will see more robust debate and a departure from the steady, consensus-based approach that has marked the postwar period.
The other parties elected to the Bundestag all refuse to work with the AfD, which says it will press for Merkel to be “severely punished” for opening the door to refugees and migrants.
After the AfD hurt her conservatives in regional elections last year, Merkel, a pastor’s daughter who grew up in Communist East Germany, wondered if she should run for re-election.
But with the migrant issue under control this year, she threw herself into a punishing campaign schedule.
Despite losing support, Merkel, Europe’s longest serving leader, will join the late Helmut Kohl, her mentor who reunified Germany, and Konrad Adenauer, who led Germany’s rebirth after World War II, as the only post-war chancellors to win four national elections.Reuters contributed to this article.
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