A Noticeable Streak

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The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) won its first election for mayor of a midsized town in the country’s east, another victory for the anti-immigration party that has become more popular in recent months amid voter disillusionment with Germany’s ruling coalition, the Financial Times reported.

Candidate Tim Lochner secured nearly 39 percent of the votes following a second round of voting in Pirna, a town in the eastern state of Saxony, defeating the center-right parties Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Free Voters.

Although he is not a party member, Lochner stood as AfD’s candidate for Sunday’s mayoral race.

His victory follows a series of wins for the AfD in other regional and local elections. In October, it surprised pollsters by gaining 18.6 percent in the state of Hesse and 14.6 percent in Bavaria, which observers described as highly unusual for the far-right group in the more affluent western Germany.

In August, the AfD secured its first mayoral election victory in a rural municipality in Raguhn-Jeßnitz, located in eastern Germany. Similarly, in June, it won its first election for head of a district council in Sonneberg, also in the east.

The party has seen an increase in popularity in recent months as many Germans have expressed dismay at the current three-party coalition of Chancellor Olaf Scholz over a number of issues, including high inflation, rising energy costs and illegal migration.

The coalition took another hit last month after Germany’s highest court ruled that the government’s decision to fund its green transition by reallocating $65 billion in unused debt – initially intended for COVID-19 relief – was unconstitutional, Politico added. The ruling forced the government to accept spending cuts.

Meanwhile, recent national surveys show the AfD polling at about 22 percent, ahead of all three parties in Scholz’s coalition – the Social Democratic Party, the Green Party and the Free Democratic Party.

Following Sunday’s vote, AfD officials claimed that the results provided a “template” for next year’s regional elections, where the party seeks to take 40 percent of the vote.

Still, the party has been described as a fringe movement and Germany’s domestic intelligence has labeled sections of the AfD as extremist. For instance, one of its leaders faces trial for the alleged use of banned Nazi slogans, and a former AfD lawmaker was arrested in connection with an alleged plot to overthrow the government.

Many traditional parties have insisted they would never cooperate or form coalitions with the AfD, but observers wonder if this policy will continue if voters keep flocking to the party.

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