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Why the AfD Could Be Good for German Democracy

Will It Bring an End to the CDU-SPD Consensus?

Leaders of the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) Bundestag group Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland and members of AfD vote during the first plenary session of German lower house of Parliament after a general election in Berlin, October 2017.  Fabrizio Bensch / REUTERS

One of the big stories to come out of the German general election this September was the success of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), the far-right party that won nearly 13 percent of the vote and will now for the first time sit in the German Parliament. (It won 94 seats in the Bundestag.) Although the AfD performed only slightly better than the polls predicted, the results nevertheless came as a shock to many. Observers inside and outside the country had believed that Germany’s Nazi past had made the country immune from the rise of extremist parties seen elsewhere in the West in the last few years.

Since the AfD was created in 2013, the German political establishment has treated it as an essentially antidemocratic party. Mainstream parties, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats—who feared that the AfD could split the right in the way Die Linke has split

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