Germans turn to Trump-style politics in challenge to Merkel

epa05210132 'Alternative for Germany' (AfD) top candidate for Saxony-Anhalt, Andre Poggenburg (c), speaks after the parliamentary elections in the states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Saxony-Anhalt and Rhineland-Palatinate, at an election party in Magdeburg, Germany, 13 March 2016. The elections are seen as a test for the support of Chancellor Merkel's migration policy which is not only criticized in her own party but mainly seen the reason for the populist anti-immigrantion party AfD expected to enter all three state parliaments.  EPA/JENS BUETTNER


If you think Donald Trump has some outrageous ideas, wait until you meet Germany’s AfD party.
The Alternative for Germany, to give the party its full name, has shaken up the country’s consensus-driven politics with headline-grabbing policies that include telling Germans to have more children to avoid the need for immigration. Frauke Petry, the AfD’s co-leader, has said that police must “prevent illegal border crossings, using firearms if necessary.”
Like Trump, her rhetoric hasn’t damaged AfD support but rather struck a chord with those disgruntled with the establishment parties, in particular nabbing voters unhappy with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy for refugees.
The party surged to record support in Sunday’s regional elections, taking seats in all three states that voted and boosting its representation to half of Germany’s 16 state assemblies. The AfD had its strongest showing in Saxony-Anhalt with 24.2 percent, making it the second-biggest party in the former communist eastern state, according to preliminary official results.
The rise of the AfD in Germany mirrors growing support for populist politicians such as National Front leader Marine Le Pen in France and Trump, who has called for banning Muslims from emigrating to the U.S. Like Trump, Petry regularly gives the media that hang on her every word a tongue-lashing. The Bavarian public broadcaster reported Monday that one of its reporters was roughed up at a Sunday AfD rally. One German newspaper even ran a quiz asking readers to attribute statements to Trump or Petry.
“We have fundamental problems in Germany that led to this outcome,” Petry said on broadcaster ARD Sunday to explain the party’s surge. “Now we want to force the other parties into a substantive debate.”
The German political establishment is having none of it, vowing instead to band together to keep the AfD out of government. Petry has responded by saying her party plans to take on an opposition role to push AfD policies in the face of what they see as a cartel of established politicians.
The AfD began in 2013 out of opposition to the euro and taxpayer-funded bailouts of countries such as Greece. Co-founder Bernd Lucke, an economics professor who focused the party on the euro, quit last year after losing a power struggle with rivals including Petry, 40, an East German-born chemist. The AfD failed to win seats in the German parliament in 2013, though it entered the European Parliament the following year. It still wants to dissolve the 19-nation euro area.

Holocaust Guilt

Several senior party members are defectors from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union who view her as pulling the party to the political left. Alexander Gauland, a regional AfD leader and former CDU member, has said the anti-Islam protesters who’ve been staging weekly demonstrations in German cities are allies. Rallies by Pegida—the German acronym stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West—are a forum for protesters who oppose Merkel’s refugee policy and call her a traitor.

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