German Jewish leader: Rise of populist AfD ‘frightening’
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German Jewish leader: Rise of populist AfD ‘frightening’

Right-wing party is polling above 20% in northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Merkel's home turf

Josef Schuster, the new president of the  Central Council of Jews in Germany, attends a press conference in Frankfurt on Nov. 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, file)
Josef Schuster, the new president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, attends a press conference in Frankfurt on Nov. 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, file)

BERLIN, Germany — The head of the German Jewish community said Friday that the rise of the right-wing populist and anti-migrant AfD party was “frightening,” as a key state election looms.

The Alternative for Germany party is polling above 20 percent in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where Chancellor Angela Merkel has her electoral seat and which goes to the polls Sunday.

Support for the AfD in the state is at a similar level to Merkel’s conservative CDU and just behind the center-left Social Democrats.

“The voters aren’t realizing they are voting for a party that doesn’t want to distance itself from the far-right spectrum,” said Yosef Schuster.

Delegates vote during a party congress of the German right wing party AfD at the Stuttgart Congress Center on May 1, 2016 (AFP/ Philipp GUELLAND)
Delegates vote during a party congress of the German right wing party AfD at the Stuttgart Congress Center on May 1, 2016 (AFP/ Philipp GUELLAND)

The AfD, which gained support when Germany took in a huge influx of refugees, “offers just slogans, no solutions,” said Schuster.

Merkel said in an RTL television interview she wanted to encourage people to vote “and to vote for parties that offer solutions to problems,” adding that the AfD was not one of them.

The AFD, founded as an anti-EU party, has shifted to an anti-Islam and anti-migrant platform, protesting the arrival in Germany of a million asylum seekers in 2015.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks alongside Lorenz Caffier, left, of Merkel's Christian Democrats, during an election campaign in Neustrelitz, Germany on Aug. 17, 2016. (Bernd Wuestneck/dpa via AP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks alongside Lorenz Caffier, left, of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, during an election campaign in Neustrelitz, Germany on Aug. 17, 2016. (Bernd Wuestneck/dpa via AP)

Since 1945, no far-right party has managed to establish itself permanently in the German political landscape.

But recent polls have given the AfD 10% to 15% support ahead of national elections next year.

Schuster said that if citizens worried about the huge refugee influx and about recent jihadist attacks, then “to an extent this is understandable, but no reason to vote for the AfD.”

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