Migrant Backlash Benefits Germany's Far-Right Party

Mar 14, 2016
Originally published on March 14, 2016 8:04 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The flood of migrants arriving in Germany has brought an election day backlash. Yesterday, Germans voting in local elections gave the far right populist party, Alternative for Germany, seats in half of the country's state legislatures. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has more from Berlin.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: It's been 50 years since right-wing populists enjoyed this level of success in Germany, and it shows just how divisive Merkel's refugee politics have become here. But even after yesterday's elections that saw Alternative for Germany take second place in one state and third in another, co-chair Frauke Petry rejected suggestions her party will pursue a far-right agenda. In an interview before the elections, she said her mandate was to provide a voice for all disgruntled voters.

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FRAUKE PETRY: Yes, we have to talk about what Germany is supposed to look like in 10 years, in 20 years' time. And I think we want to let public participate in that discussion. We don't want to leave this discussion to politicians in Parliament alone.

NELSON: The top vote-getting parties yesterday in the three states that held elections still need to form coalitions to govern. All refuse to partner with the right-wing party. Thomas Strobl heads the chancellor's party in Baden-Wurttemberg, one of three German states that elected the right-wing party yesterday.

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THOMAS STROBL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: During a ZDF television talk show, Strobl confronted Petry and said, "Alternative for Germany doesn't want to take away people's worries. It only wants to strengthen them, and that's simply not OK." Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, meanwhile, told ZDF the results wouldn't affect Berlin's policies on migrants.

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VICE CHANCELLOR SIGMAR GABRIEL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: But he says it's clear that Germany's democratic center is being challenged. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.