Germany’s Municipal Elections: AfD’s Nordhausen Town Hall Defeat

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party was defeated on Sunday in the municipal elections in Nordhausen, missing out on its first town hall in a medium-sized town. The far-right candidate Jörg Prophet was beaten by the outgoing mayor of this city.

The municipal election in Nordhausen was scrutinized across Germany: this locality in the east of the country could have become the first medium-sized city ruled by the far-right German party AfD. But the latter did not win the town hall on Sunday September 24.

The election had doubly symbolic value in a context of strong growth of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in the polls and fears of calling into question the work of memory carried out by Germany since the Second World War.

The far-right candidate Jörg Prophet was beaten by the outgoing mayor of this city of 40,000 inhabitants, located in the former GDR, in the second round of voting, according to the results announced early in the evening.

The 61-year-old former entrepreneur was the favorite after his large lead in the first round. The outgoing Kai Buchmann, without a ticket, made an unexpected comeback and finally won with 54.9% of the votes.

“The result of these elections relieves me of a huge weight, because it clearly shows that historical revisionism, an attitude that minimizes the suffering of the victims of concentration camps, is not a solution,” reacted on the NTV channel Jens-Christian Wagner, director of the Foundation which administers the former Nazi camp Mittelbau-Dora, located less than ten kilometers from Nordhausen. The victory of a far-right candidate would have been “a catastrophe”, he told Agence France-Presse (AFP) before the vote.

Near a former Nazi concentration camp

In Mittelbau-Dora, around 60,000 deportees suffered cold, hunger and mistreatment. They were assigned to the manufacture of V2 rockets, these missiles which ultimately did not provide the military superiority expected by the Nazis. Around a third of the prisoners died from the particularly brutal conditions of detention.

The camp site today houses a memorial and museum in the middle of lush countryside. The Foundation, which also manages the Buchenwald camp, had warned that an AfD mayor would not be welcome at the commemorations.

“The AfD is a far-right party whose ideology is compatible with or at least very similar to the ideology of National Socialism,” according to Jens-Christian Wagner.

Like many other members of the AfD, Jörg Prophet has been accused of extremism and revisionism. In a 2020 blog post, he called for an end to Germany’s “cult of guilt,” referring to the country’s efforts to maintain the memory of the Holocaust and learn from it so that history does not repeat itself. not.

The rhetoric questioning this memory policy is finding a growing audience, according to experts.

Voters favor Jörg Prophet “not in spite of his revisionist positions but precisely because of them”, observes Mr. Wagner.

Second party in Germany

According to a study published this week by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, far-right beliefs are increasingly widespread in Germany: 8% of respondents say so, compared to 2 to 3% in previous studies.

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A victory for the AfD in Nordhausen would have strengthened the push of the anti-immigration and anti-EU party which is riding the discontent of a section of public opinion against the current government coalition, made up of social democrats, environmentalists and of the Liberals, against inflation or climate protection measures.

At the end of June, the AfD won the leadership of a local authority in Thuringia, in the same regional state as Nordhausen, and at the beginning of July, it elected its first mayor in a municipality of around 9,000 inhabitants, in Saxony-Anhalt , another Land located in the former GDR.

In the latest polls, the AfD is in second position nationally (22%), ahead of the social-democratic party of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and just behind the conservatives (27%), currently in opposition. In Thuringia, the party is even credited with 34% of voting intentions. Regional elections are planned for September 2024 in this state, as well as in two other Länder of the former GDR, Brandenburg and Saxony.

Jens-Christian Wagner believes the AfD could win at least one of the three elections: “I thought the Germans had learned from their past. But at the moment I am very worried.”

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