BERLIN (Reuters) – The leaders of Alternative for Germany (AfD) showed courage after projected election results showed support for the far-right party and said they were happy to see the Tories Chancellor Angela Merkel collapsing towards their worst result ever.
The mood was calm in a Berlin restaurant where party leaders and a few dozen members gathered after the party failed to improve the 12.6% it achieved four years ago. , settling down on 10-11% instead.
“If this result holds, it would mean Merkel has ruined my old party,” said honorary AfD leader Alexander Gauland, who was a member of the outgoing chancellor’s Christian Democrats (CDU) before joining the party. far right.
“Despite our relatively weaker result, we accomplished our mission: Merkel got out,” Gauland added, to applause.
Political cartoons about world leaders
The AfD has been weakened by an internal power struggle between co-leader Joerg Meuthen who wants to purge the party of members suspected of links to neo-Nazi groups and a more nationalist camp that sees no need to act.
His opposition to lockdowns and distancing rules during the pandemic also put off voters, pollsters said ahead of the election.
Exit polls showed the Social Democrats were just passing or nearly tied with the Conservatives.
The AfD burst into the national parliament for the first time in 2017, supported by voters unhappy with Merkel’s decision in 2015 to welcome nearly one million asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa.
He is shunned by all traditional political parties, who accuse him of promoting divisions through verbal attacks against Muslims and migrants. The AfD has denied having racist views.
With the election too close to be called, conservative candidate Armin Laschet and his SPD rival Olaf Scholz will have to wait for the final results before claiming victory.
Gauland tried to see a silver lining in the outcome, saying weakened conservatives might be tempted to reverse their decision to never work with the AfD, even in opposition.
“If Scholz becomes chancellor, the CDU has to change course and then there is a chance that we can work with the CDU,” he said.
(Written by Joseph Nasr; edited by Tomasz Janowski)
Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.