Angela Merkel has secured a fourth term as German chancellor but with her authority diminished, after her conservative bloc secured the lead position in parliamentary elections but failed to halt the march of rightwing populists.
Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) was celebrating its historic third place success last night, having secured 13% of the vote, according to exit polls, marking the first time in almost six decades that an openly nationalist party will enter the Bundestag.
Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democrat-led alliance secured 33% of the vote, according to exit polls, about 12 points ahead of her main rivals, Martin Schulz’s centre-left Social Democrats, which secured around 21 points, marking the poorest result for Germany’s oldest party since 1949 and pushing it on to the opposition benches.
Addressing CDU supporters in Berlin, a somewhat subdued-looking Merkel thanked “voters who put their trust in us”. Despite recognising that it was her party’s worst result since 1945, she said the “strategic goals” of the CDU’s election campaign had been reached, and gave her a clear mandate to form the next government. But she called the outcome “a result that was not as good as we had expected”.
She also promised to listen to the “concerns and anxieties” of AfD voters in order to win back their votes.
AfD’s propulsion into parliament just four years into its existence gives the country its first far-right force on the national stage since 1961, and a faction with the most substantial presence of rightwing extremists since the Nazi era.