While Angela Merkel retained her chancellorship for a fourth consecutive term, the biggest news from the German federal election was the AfD's meteoric rise. They received nearly thrice as many votes as they did in 2013, earning 94 of the Bundestag's 630 seats by siphoning votes primarily from the two larger parties, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Walter Smolarek and Brian Becker on Sputnik Radio's Loud & Clear spoke to Marcel Joppa, a Berlin-based Sputnik Deutschland journalist and analyst, about the ramifications of the AfD's triumph.
First, Joppa explained the complicated and unusual history of the party. "Bernd Lucke was a professor and, with other professors of liberal and conservative politicians, he said in 2013 'we need a party right from the CDU/CSU,'" Joppa said. "This was the time when the Greek finance system broke down and we had a finance crisis, and then Germany said 'yeah, we will help Greece,' and Bernd Lucke said, 'no, we can't help them with any money, we already have for millions and millions of euros.' So he said, 'we need our own party to do that.'"
"It was a funny group of people: professors and some politicians came in from other parties like the FDP [Free Democratic Party], a very Liberal party, so started their political careers with the AfD. They became popular at the beginning, and yet two years later Lucke saw many right-wing people in his own party. He said, 'you know what, that can't be the future I want to have.' So he said, 'I will build my own other party, a very small party.' I even don't know the name. Now he's part of the history of the AfD but [former AfD chair Frauke] Petry is the new leader of the party."
Petry herself left the party after the election when she clashed with farther right candidates within the AfD, leaving Alexander Gauland in charge. Gauland attracted controversy in September when he said Germany should "be proud of" its soldiers in World War II, and that foreigners should no longer "reproach" Germany for the nation's actions under Adolf Hitler.
Becker then asked Joppa what allowed the AfD to experience such a dramatic rise, and he laid the blame squarely at the feet of Merkel. "The history of Merkel and these 12 years of her being chancellor of Germany, there are many points that were outstanding for politics that are now problems here in Germany," he said.
"The many refugees that came in, all the politics with Greece, you have many little points and as we say in Germany, [Merkel] is doing politics with small steps. She is doing not very much. It's a little bit of a standstill in Germany, and we have social questions too, and when Merkel is not doing what the people in Germany want there is a big hole right of the CDU/CSU."
"And then the AfD, for example, can go through it and can say 'yeah, we are the new conservative middle party,' which is not really true. So we have 13 percent [of Germans voting for] AfD after these elections."
Becker then compared the AfD's rise to the rapid rise of the Nazi Party in Germany during the 1920s, which went from receiving three percent of the vote in 1928 to 16 percent in 1930 to 37 percent in 1932. He asked if Joppa saw any parallels between the two right-wing parties, but Joppa was dismissive of the possibility of such a rapid rise of the right-wing in Germany once more.
"We have to wait," he said. "People in Germany voted for the AfD because they are dissatisfied with the established parties and with Chancellor Merkel, not because of AfD politics. If the AFD would have a more extremist direction, I'm pretty sure that in the next election, less people would vote for them and many people would realize that the AfD has no answers, they only ask loud questions."
"But [first] Chancellor Merkel has to change the politics of small steps, of the standstill in the social questions, because this is one of the reasons of this conflict in Germany."
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.