JTA — Chancellor Angela Merkel clinched her fourth term and her center-right Christian Democratic Union party maintained its parliamentary majority in the German national elections on Sunday.
The victory, however, was hardly a landslide: With some 6 million votes, the populist, far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, finished in third place, securing 94 seats in the national parliament, the Bundestag, which now has 709 seats in all.
With a platform focused on Islam and migration, and rhetoric tinged with Nazi tropes, the AfD garnered 12.6 percent of the vote — nearly three times better than in 2013.
The unprecedented showing for a far-right party in postwar Germany alarmed Jewish and Muslim leaders.
“A party that tolerates right-wing extremist ideas in its ranks has managed not only to win seats in almost all our state parliaments, but also in the Bundestag,” Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a statement.
Schuster expressed the urgent wish that German democratic leaders “reveal the true face of the AfD, and expose its empty, populist promises.”
Here is a look at the AfD: its history, its leaders and backers, and where the party stands on key issues.
When was the AfD founded, and why?
Riding a wave of popular resentment against German bailouts of bankrupt European Union member states, the party was launched in April 2013. The AfD has since developed into an anti-immigration, anti-Muslim and euro-skeptical party.
The party gained popularity primarily for its attacks on Merkel’s liberal policy toward refugees — since 2015, Germany has opened its doors to more than 1.5 million, mostly Muslims — and xenophobic and nationalistic campaign platforms. Akin to President Donald Trump’s “America First” position and the U.K.’s rejection of the European Union, the AfD promotes a “pro-Germany” stance, even going so far as to urge citizens to have more babies “made in Germany.”
Who are the party’s leaders?
The party has a moderate and a far-right fraction. Heading the latter is Alexander Gauland, a 76-year-old attorney and journalist who left the conservative Christian Democrats after 40 years to co-found the AfD. His “moderate” counterpart is Alice Weidel, a 38-year-old economist.
Gauland recently said Germans “don’t have to be held accountable anymore for those 12 years [of the Nazi regime]. They don’t affect our identity today any longer. And…