AfD leader quits party after German election breakthrough


GERMANY has been shaken by the rise of far-right nationalism following the election success of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD).

On Sunday, the AfD won 12.6 percent of the national vote and will enter the Bundestag for the first time.

The far-right has not been represented in parliament since the 1950s, a reflection of Germany's efforts to distance itself from the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust.

Knobloch, President of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria - and former president of the German Jewish Council - said she was deeply concerned about Germany's democracy in light of the exit polls.

AfD voters "sent a dramatic message that many people are fed up with how politics is done", he said.

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German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said this week: "We will have real Nazis in the Reichstag for the first time since the end of the Second World War".

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel was re-elected for a fourth term, but with some of the worst figures in seven decades.

Knobloch called on the future government and the opposition "to provide non-partisan solutions to the central problems and fears of the people, over terrorism, integration and immigration, internal and external security, poverty, economic stability".

The AfD, which has surged in the two years since Merkel left Germany's borders open to more than 1 million migrants mainly fleeing Middle East wars, says immigration jeopardizes Germany's culture but denies it is racist or anti-Semitic.

At this year's elections, the AfD ran an explicitly anti-Islam campaign, arguing that "Islam is not a part of Germany".

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Condemnations from establishment politicians did little to dissuade AfD voters, however, whose grievances against the status quo helped push the party into parliament.

The result, which puts the AfD at just over 13%, was described by leading party figures as a "political natural disaster". The largest share of votes for the AfD came from eastern Germany, according to preliminary data from the political polling firm Infratest Dimap.

What does it mean for Germany's political system?

There is no guarantee that Merkel will come to a deal with the FDP and the Greens - both parties bitterly oppose each other and will be wary of the fate of the SPD, which suffered from its proximity to Merkel in the last government and struggled to mount an effective election campaign under leader Martin Schultz. It wasn't immediately clear if any other members of the AfD's 94-member caucus would join in her in sitting off on her own in parliament.

But it has been riven with internal strife: Petry has been regarded as a more moderate force in the party, arguing that it had to break with the far right in order to move from opposition into government.

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While their nationalist views and harsh line on immigration may echo many of Donald Trump policies, it seems the AfD is not looking to align themselves with the USA president.