The Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party tripled its share of the vote in Saxony and doubled in Brandenburg on Sunday.
In Dresden, Saxony, AfD reaped a 27% of the vote, with the CDU shedding 7%. In Brandenburg, the AfD reaped 23,5%. Although the SPD retained its 26,2% lead, it was clear that the region close to the nation’s capital has a new political map.
The Christian Democrats (CDU) in Saxony and the Social Democrats (SPD) in Brandenburg retained the lead but suffered great losses. The two parties welcomed the results with some sense of relief, as some polls had indicated that AfD could, in fact, come out first.
The AfD campaign in Saxony was especially significant for CDU, as it is the political home of the new leader of the CDU and Minister of Defense, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. By the same token, had SPD lost Brandenburg, pressure to leave the government would increase.
AfD started out a movement opposed to bailouts in the Eurozone’s southern periphery, advocating for a return to the beloved Deutschmark. However, its electoral influence took off when it prioritized anti-immigration, anti-Islamic, and Euro-critical rhetoric.
This was the first local election in the region since the 2015 refugee crisis. AfD embraced the PEGIDA movement and took the lead in the 2015 anti-refugee campaign in Germany. The party campaigned on a “take your country back” motto and its leadership rejects the “Nazi” brand.
The AfD has also managed to take the lion’s share of what is considered “anti-establishment” vote, leaving behind the far-left Die Linke, in both regions. In the east, AfD has sought to capitalize on the persistent east-west wealth divide.
What is clear is that the AfD remains toxic for all other parties, none of whom will consider joining a coalition that would include the party. AfD leader Alexander Gauland said that his party’s strong performance means that parties like the CDU will have to work with the AfD in the future.