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The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party on Sunday narrowly lost a widely watched local election that it was predicted to win, following weeks of protests triggered by the party’s alleged involvement in a mass deportation scheme, the Guardian reported.

In a runoff vote in the district of Saarle-Orla, an administrative division in the southeastern state of Thuringia, the AfD’s Uwe Thrum lost by 4.6 percentage points to Christian Herrgott from the conservative Christian Democrat (CDU) party, once led by former Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Despite the election’s relatively small size – just 66,000 people were eligible to vote, in a country of 83 million – it was closely monitored even by the European Union. Analysts saw it as a gauge of the toll that weeks of protests have taken on the AfD.

Since a report came out on Jan. 10 that AfD officials had attended a meeting with alt-right figures in a villa on the outskirts of Berlin to discuss the so-called “remigration” of immigrants and poorly assimilated Germans with foreign backgrounds, more than a million people have taken to the streets to denounce the party and its alleged links with fascist movements.

Though the AfD has sought to distance itself from the meeting’s attendants, the outrage has also triggered a debate on whether to ban the party.

Prior to the revelations, the AfD was running ahead in polls in an election-rich year for Germany. As the country prepares for its next federal election in 2025, Germans this year will also vote for the European Parliament, three state legislatures and numerous local councils. The AfD had been predicted to score well in most of them.

After the party’s first district win last summer, also in Thuringia, polls had indicated the AfD would win Saarle-Orla as well. The results of the first round – 45.7 percent for Thrum and 33 percent for Herrgott – added to that expectation.

The district features a textbook sample of AfD voters: rural, earning low salaries and resenting traditional parties such as those making up Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left coalition.

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