Although German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU/CSU) won the most seats in parliament after Sunday’s elections, Germany’s far-right populists have hijacked headlines on Monday, scoring a historic third place that gives them seats in lower house for the first time.
The nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) earned the third biggest vote share, while the CDU/CSU scored their worst result in almost seven decades. Germany’s second largest party— the Social Democrats (SPD)—also made historic losses.
The results provoked protests across Berlin and other German cities, with groups of people chanting "Nazis out!" "Racism is not an alternative," and "AfD is a bunch of racists," German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.
Around 700 Berliners gathered in the capital’s central Alexanderplatz square, chanting slogans and carrying signs in protest of the AfD. Although winning 13 percent of the vote gave the AfD its first foothold on the federal level, it already holds 23 out of 160 seats in the Berlin city parliament.
Similar sized events took place in the cities of Frankfurt and Leipzig, a city where the AfD performed particularly well, while around 400 protesters rallied in Cologne, chanting against indifference, carrying a banner that read, " Whoever is silent, is complicit."
Angela Merkel has ruled out striking a coalition deal with the AfD—a party that gained its popularity largely in opposing her pro-refugee platform, and performed well in the former states of east Germany. The group's largest single stance is being anti-Muslim, though it also calls for a review of Germany’s collective memory of both world wars and a celebration of Nazi military officials.
“If the French are rightly proud of their emperor and the Britons of Nelson and Churchill, we have the right to be proud of the achievements of the German soldiers in two world wars,” Alexander Gauland, the party’s co-founder said earlier this month.
Among the figures he wanted Germany to reclaim were Nazi Germany’s most popular general, Wehrmacht field marshal Erwin Rommel and Claus von Stauffenberg, chief of staff for the commander of the German Replacement Army, who failed to assassinate Adolf Hitler in July 1944.
The party's leader, Frauke Petry, has sparked contrversy in the past for attempt to revive the word "voelkisch," seen as a Nazi means of defining people who they considered "racially superior" to others. And in further controversy, in January, the party’s regional chief in the eastern state of Thuringia described Berlin's Holocaust Memorial as a “monument of shame” and called for a “180-degree turnaround” in Germany’s chosen way to atone for crimes of the Nazi regime.