2016 The Year in Review

The Rise of Germany’s Populists

Nach der Landtagswahl in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
Many fear populism will grow unchecked in 2017. Source: DPA

The anti-immigrant party, Alternative for Germany, saw its fortunes soar in 2016 thanks to frustrations over Chancellor Merkel’s open-door refugee policy. In March the AfD entered three state parliaments, in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, and in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, with double-digit percentages of the vote. In September, the party beat out Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats to take second place in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the chancellor’s home state. That same month, the AfD party even entered the state parliament in typically left-leaning Berlin, with 14 percent of the vote.

Despite the electoral challenges, Chancellor Merkel finally ended speculation in November about her political future, announcing she will run in 2017 for a fourth straight term. The other major party, the Social Democrats, have yet to declare whether their leader, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, or outgoing European Parliament president, Martin Schulz, will be her opponent. Some observers think Donald Trump’s election in the United States will affect the German campaign, where Ms. Merkel is now regarded by supporters as the last defender of Western liberal democracy.


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