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Diminished Merkel casts around for new coalition

Greens and liberal FDP sought as allies as far-right AfD takes shock third place

GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel sought a new coalition with the Greens and free-market liberal FDP yesterday after losing ground to the right in Sunday’s election.

Ms Merkel’s centre-right CDU slumped to 33 per cent of the vote from 41.5 per cent in 2013. Her Social Democratic Party (SPD) “grand coalition” allies hit a post-war low of 20.5 per cent, down from 25.7, and immediately ruled out returning to government with the CDU.

The gains were picked up by the FDP and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) — a racist, Eurosceptic party with a large fascist wing.

AfD came a shock third with 12.6 per cent of the vote, winning seats in the Bundestag for the first time.

The FDP placed fourth on 10.7 per cent, returning to parliament after a four-year hiatus. Both parties got under the 5 per cent threshold in 2013.

Die Linke (The Left) and the Greens made modest gains of less than 1 per cent.

In the Leipzig II seat, in the south of the eastern city, Die Linke’s Soren Pellman ousted the CDU, which had won the seat with 34 per cent last time.

But Die Linke’s small percentage change masked a shift in its vote, losing votes in its traditional eastern heartlands and picking them up in the west.

Reflecting a struggle between certain factions within the AfD, co-chair Frauke Petry announced almost as soon as she was elected that she would not join the party’s parliamentary group.

Petry was at the heart of the AfD’s shift towards Islamophobia but now appears to have been outflanked on the right.

As anti-racists rallied all over Germany against the AfD’s results, joint lead candidate Alexander Gauland claimed that “there is nothing in our party … that could disturb the Jewish people who live here in Germany.”

Mr Gauland has previously expressed pride for the German armed forces during the second world war, and other AfD politicians have condemned the building of Holocaust memorials.

SPD leader Martin Schulz claimed that his party was one that “accepts its defeats, deals with them and turns them around to become the strongest force in this country in the future.”

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