Chancellor Angela Merkel clinched a fourth term in Germany’s election Sunday, but her victory was clouded by the entry into parliament of the hard-right AfD in the best showing for a nationalist force since World War II.
Merkel, who after 12 years in power held a double-digit lead for most of the campaign, scored around 33 percent of the vote with her conservative Christian Union (CDU/CSU) bloc, according to preliminary results. It was their worst score since 1949.
Its nearest rivals, the Social Democrats and their candidate Martin Schulz, came in a distant second, with a post-war record low of 21 percent.
But in a bombshell for the German establishment, the anti-Islam, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) captured around 13 percent, catapulting it to become the country’s third biggest political force.
Commentators called the AfD’s strong performance a “watershed moment” in the history of the German republic. The top-selling Bild daily spoke of a “political earthquake”.
AfD supporters gathered at a Berlin club, cheering as public television reported the outcome, many joining in a chorus of the German national anthem.
Hundreds of protesters rallied outside, shouting “Nazis out!” while smaller AfD demonstrations were held in other cities across the country.
The four-year-old nationalist party with links to the far-right French National Front and Britain’s UKIP has been shunned by Germany’s mainstream but was able to build on particularly strong support in ex-communist eastern Germany.