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Germany's far-right AfD loses mayoral race in Nordhausen

September 24, 2023

Jörg Prophet, the candidate from the far-right AfD, had been the clear favorite to win the runoff vote. Instead, independent incumbent Kai Buchmann has managed to hold onto his post.

People walk past an election poster showing Jörg Prophet in Nordhausen
Winning the race in Nordhausen would have been a major psychological boon for the AfDImage: Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has failed to unseat the incumbent mayor in a runoff election in the central industrial town of Nordhausen.

AfD candidate Jörg Prophet won 45.1% of the vote in Sunday's local polls, while independent incumbent Kai Buchmann garnered 54.9%.

Prophet conceded defeat in a press statement referring to himself in the third person: "We have a new mayor. Mr Prophet has become the number two in this election."

Buchmann said he was "very happy" with the result and that he would use the next six years in office to try to "get the best out of it for the city."

Prophet had been the clear favorite ahead of the polls. The 61-year-old entrepreneur won over 42% of the vote in the first round two weeks ago, with Buchmann securing only 23.7%.

Buchmann, an independent formerly associated with the Green party, had hoped to harness support from mainstream voters who view the AfD as right-wing extremists. Germany's established parties have united to keep the AfD out of power in the past, but the taboo against cooperating with them seems to be fading as the AfD's popularity rises.

Headshots of Jörg Prophet and  Kai Buchmann
Prophet (left) decisively won the first stage of the race over Buchmann (right)Image: Martin Schutt/ Ronny Hartmann/AFP/dpa/picture alliance

Recent polls put the AfD at around 21.5% support nationwide. But in the eastern state of Thuringia, where Nordhausen is located, the party was polling at around 32%.

The populist party has been mired in numerous controversies over their anti-migrant stance, with mainstream politicians warning of parallels between AfD ideology and the Nazis. Recently, a court in Thuringia decided that AfD regional leader Bjorn Höcke would face trial for allegedly using a banned Nazi slogan in a speech.

Dealing with the German far-right AfD on a local level

The far-right populist party has had two local election victories in eastern Germany in the past few months.

In June, the AfD occupied the post of district administration for the first time, after its member Robert Sesselmann won the district council election in the Thuringian district of Sonneberg.

In July, the party won its first mayorship in the small town of Raguhn-Jessnitz in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt.

AfD candidate and Germany's past

Nordhausen, with its population of around 42,000, is located near the former concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora, a part of the larger Buchenwald complex. In Mittelbau-Dora, slave labor was used to build V-2 rockets, with about one out of three workers dying.

Prophet had raised eyebrows with his statements on Germany's past, stating that Allies troops who liberated the Mittelbau-Dora camp were solely interested in information about rockets and missiles.

He has also urged an end to Germany's "guilt cult" describing German attitudes towards the Holocaust.

Reacting to the result, the management of the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial said voters had chosen to live in a cosmopolitan, diverse city that is aware of its historical responsibility.

"Nevertheless, the many votes for the AfD candidate, who is openly historical revisionist, show that the enlightened culture of remembrance is the basic consensus of our democracy is at acute risk," said foundation director Jens-Christian Wagner.

Controversial AfD politician: 'We want diplomacy to work'

dj/jcg (AFD, dpa)

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