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Right-wing populists surge in Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel returns on the stage at the headquarters of the Christian Democratic Union CDU in Berlin. Photo: Michael Sohn / AP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's election to a fourth term was marred by a bigger-than-expected success for her nationalist opponents — the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany, which own 13% of the vote, pulling it in at third place. Merkel's party now has its worst showing in the Bundestag since 1949, per CNN. The AfD capitalized on Germany's refugee crisis and will surge into the Bundestag as the first substantial rightwing populist party since the Nazis during the second world war, per the Financial Times (paywalled).

How we got here, via by Wall Street Journal's Marcus Walker in Berlin: "German Results Reflect European Unease Over Identity, Economy": "Germany's election result confirms the overriding trend of European politics in the past year: the crumbling of the Continent's established parties in the face of voter anxiety over economics and identity."

  • "The fragmented vote mirrors this year's elections in other Continental European countries including France and the Netherlands. Established parties have suffered steep losses, especially on the center left, and voters have turned to upstarts on the nationalist right, the anticapitalist left or the liberal center."
  • Why it matters: "The upheavals partly reflect the fallout of a decade marked by economic, security and immigration crises that have tested the cohesion of the European Union."
  • "The future direction of the EU and its major nations is now up for grabs in a fluid contest between internationalists and nationalists, incumbents and insurgents."

Be smart: The nationalist and populist wave that produced Brexit and President Trump had faltered in recent European elections, but persists in ways that the establishment hasn't yet fully reckoned with. Merkel's take: "There's a big new challenge for us, and that is the entry of the AfD in the Bundestag...We want to win back AfD voters," she said Sunday.

Go deeper: There's internal dissent in AfD, and AfD's chairwoman, Frauke Petry, walked out of a press conference that was intended to celebrate the success. There's no certainty about whether Merkel will be building a coalition via a deal with the FDP and the Greens.

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