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Cries of "Nazis Out!" greeted the right-wing NPD success in SaxonyImage: AP

Gains by Extremist Parties Trouble Germany

DW Staff (dre)
September 20, 2004

Germany woke up to fears that the political tremors sparked by state elections in Saxony and Brandenburg on Sunday could lead to deeper division within their country and scare off investors.


Observers say the success of the Party of Democratic Socialism, the successor to East Germany's communist party, and the extreme right National Party of Germany (NPD) and German People's Union (DVU) in Sunday's elections show how angry East Germans are at the reality they face 14 years after reunification.

The PDS rode a wave of discontent over Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's tough social reforms to 28 percent of the vote, making them second-strongest party in Brandenburg, behind Schröder's Social Democrats (SPD).

The governing SPD and conservative Christian Democratic Union "got a serious slap in the face," said Lothar Bisky, the Brandenburg parliamentary head for the PDS, a party that most analysts left for dead after their failure in the last federal election.

Left-wingers "divide" the country, says Schily

Though the party will most likely be excluded from a coalition government --- the SPD is more likely to pick the conservative Christian Democratic Union -- their success has nevertheless sent the government in Berlin a message, and one they don't like to hear.

By making themselves, as a regional party, the "mouthpiece of a part of Germany" they are deepening the divide between East and West, Interior Minister Otto Schily said of the party, which has only found success so far in the east.

The same goes for the NPD, which Schily tried and failed to ban two years ago. Based on their Sunday success, the right wing party can claim 12 seats in Saxony's parliament. The 9.2 percent they won was almost as much as the 9.8 percent of the Social Democratic Party, the party of Germany's chancellor.

Right wing candidate ignored on television

"Today is a fantastic day for all Germans that still want to be Germans," the NPD's top candidate, Holger Apfel, said during a round of candidate interviews in German station ZDF's studios. Soon after his comment, the other candidates walked off the set and the reporter broke off Apfel's diatribe.

Landtagswahl 2004 in Sachsen: Holger Apfel, NPD feiert
Holger Apfel (in brown), celebrates with NPD functionariesImage: AP

Political scientists say the miserable economic climate and the anger of young East Germans that fuelled the NPD's Sunday success could spark a worrying trend.

"If some sort of economic miracle doesn’t take place in the east, our society's potential for supporting right wing politics could reach high levels," said political scientist Jürgen Felter on the German talk show Sabine Christiansen, Sunday night.. He estimated the potential at 15 percent across Germany.

Saxony state officials fear the presence of right- wing extremists in the state parliament will scare off the international investors that have made Saxony one of the few economic bright spots in the East. In recent years, the state has been able to profile itself as a center for bio-technology and microchip production while enjoying an increase in tourism.

Ahead of the elections, Saxony's Premier, Georg Milbradt, said that should the NPD make it into the parliament, he needn't bother going to America anymore to promote his state.

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