Angela Merkel and her party, the Christian Democratic Union, celebrated victory on September 24 as Merkel now begins her fourth term as Chancellor and continues to be the longest-standing leader in the European Union. However, their triumph was muted by unprecedented leaps and bounds by Alternative for Germany, a right-wing nationalist party that garnered roughly 13 percent of the vote and led the far-right into Parliament for the first time in decades.
Angela Merkel was elected to the Bundestag in 1990, and has remained influential ever since. She became the first female leader of the Christian Democratic Union in 2000, and the first female Chancellor of Germany in 2005. Having a doctorate in quantum chemistry, she worked as a scientist in the eighties before getting into politics. She has received numerous recognitions, from being Forbes second-most powerful person in the world to being Time magazine’s person of the year in 2015.
Alternative for Germany, also known as AfD, won 94 seats out of 709 in the Bundestag, Germany’s equivalent of the House of Representatives. It received almost three times the amount of votes it did in 2013, making it the third largest party in Parliament. AfD was founded in 2013 and holds increasingly right-wing views, being against immigration, environmentalism, and same-sex marriage, as well as being critical of the European Union and its currency, the Euro.
The success of AfD may not seem remarkable in a country such as the United States, but for a nation that can still remember a time where nationalist rhetoric led to dictatorship and genocide, the emergence of Alternative for Germany can be frightening. One leader within the party, Alexander Gauland, has said “We will take back our country and our people,” and that Germany could be proud of “the achievements of German soldiers in two world wars.”
Even though the election was still a victory for the status-quo, with the center-right Christian Democrats leading and the center-left Social Democrats in second, the startling advancement of AfD was a wake-up call that Germans were getting tired of the parties that have dominated German politics in the past decade.
By Jordan King