Outrage Brews as German Town Elects Far-Right Mayor: 'We Do Not Cooperate With Nazis!'

A small town in central Germany elected as mayor.

Stefan Jagsch of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) ran unopposed and was elected unanimously by a group of seven councillors in Waldsiedlung in the state of Hesse, the BBC reports.

Local councillors from major parties—including Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Free Democratic Party—voted for Jagsch. "The NPD candidate filled the vacuum," said Markus Brando, the SPD leader in Altenstadt, which includes Waldsiedlung.

The election was a rare electoral victory for the NPD, which has only won seats in regional assemblies and has not crossed the threshold to gain representation in the Bundestag since the party was formed in 1964. It has pushed an ultranationalist and anti-minority agenda.

Germany Anti-Migrant Protests
Anti-migrant protests in Cologne, Germany, January 9. The German government is worried about the growth of the far-right. Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

After Barack Obama's election as president in November 2008, NPD published a document entitled "Africa conquers the White House," blaming his victory on "the American alliance of Jews and Negroes." A year later, police in Berlin raided NPD headquarters after accusations that letters from the party to politicians from immigrant backgrounds incited racial hatred.

Political leaders have slammed the recent election results: Annegrat Kramp-Karrenbauer, chair of the CDU, called for the election to be cancelled. CDU secretary-general Paul Ziemiak called the election results "a disgrace."

"The SPD has a very clear position: we do not cooperate with Nazis! Never!" tweeted SPD general secretary Lars Klingbeil on Saturday.

According to Deutsche Welle, there are thought to be around 6,000 members of the NPD, "one of the most stubborn presences on the far-right of Germany's political spectrum." It's part of a constellation of interconnected far-right political organizations gaining steam in the country and which critics warn are simply putting a new, slicker face on what is essentially Nazi ideology.

In 2017, the German Constitutional Court ruled that the NDPs agenda was anti-constitutional but opposed an outright ban on the party, noting that their voter turnout in the 2013 elections was not a significant threat to the constitution. (The party received 1.3 percent of the vote, far short of the 5 percent requirement needed to win a Bundestag seat.)

Reception to that ruling was mixed: Some were satisfied that the court treated the NPD as a mere distraction, but others disagreed on principle with allowing the NPD to continue and predicted the party would capitalize on the opportunity.

That same year, Alternative for Germany (AfD), another far-right, anti-immigration party, became the first far-right party to win seats in the Bundestag since WWII.

Accused of using xenophobic and racist rhetoric, AfD is Eurosceptic and opposes current climate change science. When the German parliament passed marriage equality in June 2017, the AfD website read, "In deep sorrow, we say good-bye to the German family, whose constitutional protection was buried by the 'representatives of the people.'"

AfD is currently the official opposition party to Germany's ruling coalition, and is the second most popular party in the country, having received 13 percent of the vote.