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German-Right comeback

German-Right comeback
While Angela Merkel may have won her fourth term as Chancellor, the politics in Berlin will not be the same with the German far-right institution, Alternative for Germany (AfD), becoming the country's main opposition party. It is a scenario that most Germans and political parties had hoped they would avoid and one that initially seemed unlikely as the Chancellor pursued the coalition government she is now in charge of. But, it is a huge symbolic victory for the AfD and the new position would provide it with a major platform for its anti-Islamic and anti-immigration policies. It would also boost its populist narrative that it is the only party in Germany that offers a real departure from the status quo. For all practical purposes, they really will be able to present themselves, not just in their own eyes but in the eyes of the Parliament, as the alternative to the government. In neighbouring Austria, the far-Right has taken over the government too. Not that that is being celebrated in Germany, but it is reviving memories among the elderly of the emergence of the Nazis before the Second World War. That a far-Right party would become Germany's main opposition force would have been unthinkable even a few years ago as the country had largely rejected far-Right movements since World War II. But the rapid ascent of the AfD, which capitalised on the growing hostility towards the establishment parties and perceived the emerging threats to German identity from the refugee crisis, has marked a historic shift in the nation. Some polls indicate that the party continues to gain support, despite political opposition, internal strife and several scandals. The AfD drew widespread criticism for its first proposal in the Bundestag, a plan for Germany to negotiate a deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government to send war refugees back to the country from where they had fled. Angela Merkel had struggled to form a coalition government following her September election win. In the meantime, the AfD appears happy to sit on the sidelines and enjoy the disagreements within the Socialists (SPD). "They benefit from any sign of instability because it stops the government from getting down to real business, and it potentially makes the other party leaders and parties look weaker," said a seasoned observer. The AfD stands to benefit from either taking on the role of the opposition or potentially gaining seats in the next elections. But, the majority of the German electorate is with Merkel as Chancellor, and she has no clear replacement which suggests that despite the AfD's rhetoric and cracks emerging in Germany's prized political stability, Merkel remains numero uno. The public reaction to her next government, though, will be a barometer for the country's political future.
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