State elections have propelled Alternative für Deutschland, or A-f-D, into Berlin’s legislature for the first time.
In some districts of the capital, over 50 percent of voters chose the party. They are now in ten of Germany’s sixteen state parliaments.
So who are the supporters of A-f-D? And why do they back a party said to be anti-refugee and anti-Islam?
‘I wouldn’t say we are Islamophobic’
We caught up with some A-f-D supporters at a street festival in East Berlin – just before the state elections.
One teacher, who spoke to insiders, said he had never belonged to a political party before.
“I support AfD because I feel the politics of the traditional parties are ‘supposedly’ without alternatives,” said Stefan Kretschmer, an Alternative für Deutschland member.
“The saving of the Euro, the saving of Greece, the refugee crisis, all this is without alternatives. But nothing is without an alternative.”
An alternative to mainstream politics. But also an alternative to a country changing too fast, especially when it comes to refugees and migrants.
“Berlin has to become clean again. There are so many things where we have put the wrong priority. At a community level but also at a regional level,” said Marianne Kleinert, another Alternative für Deutschland member.
“The distribution of refugees, out of all those refugee centres that are being built, mainly in the East of Berlin, without consulting the citizens.”
Another member, Herbert Mohr, added: “I wouldn’t say we are Islamaphobic, we are a critic of Islam. Every Muslim who is living in Germany and who is practicing his religion is completely accepted.
“But we say that Islam as a religion is not rooted and based in Germany ‘s culture. In Germany there is the notion of western Judeo-Christianism and that’s the way we want to keep it.”
A polite way of saying Islam is not compatible with German culture? Yet not everyone agrees.
For far-left protesters, A-f-D is no alternative. It’s provocative, divisive and extreme.
Labels one A-f-D supporter denies.
“They yelled at us, calling us Nazis and racists. All these lies, I, we altogether refuse this. We aren’t. But they give us this label,” said A-f-D member Stefan Kretschmer.
The migrant and refugee effect
There is no denying that the A-f-D is drawing more and more support from Germans fed up with centre-right and centre left political parties.
But it has also gained support riding on a political platform which blames refugees and migrants for draining Germany’s social welfare budget.
Frauke Petry who heads the the A-f-D is not without controversy. Her alleged call to allow police as a last resort to open fire on refugees at the border was branded as far-right and populist.
She’s been compared to other European populist leaders who use a far-right, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant rhetoric to garner votes.
Euronews’ Valerie Zabriskie put to her: “There is talk of the growing success of certain far right parties i