Far-Right Party Suffers Setback as Colorless Mayor Wins Re-Election in German City
In a surprising turn of events, the hard-line Alternative for Germany (AfD) party faced a setback as voters in the city of Nordhausen decisively returned their colorless and reputedly prickly mayor to office. The AfD, known for its nationalist and anti-immigrant sentiment, was hoping to secure its first City Hall victory in Germany.
Many Germans had feared that the charismatic and successful businessman, Jörg Prophet, the far-right candidate challenging the incumbent mayor Kai Buchmann, would lead the AfD to a significant win. However, when the ballots were counted on Sunday evening, the voters had spoken – 55 percent chose to re-elect Mayor Buchmann, while 45 percent voted for Prophet.
The election result comes at a time when the AfD is on the rise across the country. Despite winning only 10 percent of the votes in the 2021 general election, the party has benefited from frustration with the current government, rising living costs, concerns about the conflict in Ukraine, and an increase in immigration. The AfD is now regularly polling above 20 percent nationwide, putting it well ahead of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats.
Nordhausen’s election was seen as a crucial test for the AfD’s ambitions to gain a foothold in German governance. The city, with its history as an East German municipality, was thought to be susceptible to the party’s nationalist message. Yet, despite Nordhausen’s status as a quaint and relatively prosperous city with modern amenities and a well-preserved medieval quarter, voters overwhelmingly chose to stick with the incumbent mayor.
The outcome of the election in Nordhausen is seen as a blow to the AfD’s normalization strategy. Winning the mayoral office would have been another significant milestone for the party, demonstrating its ability to take on communal executive responsibility and moving away from its hard-right extremist core. Political scientist Benjamin Höhne, who studies the AfD, noted that the party’s extreme elements appeared to recede into the background with this defeat.
While the AfD has made gains at the district and state levels in recent years, it is clear that the party is not abandoning its extremist principles. In Nordhausen, Prophet’s association with prominent AfD figures, as well as his refusal to distance himself from far-right extremist Björn Höcke, likely played a role in his undoing. Critics argue that had he focused solely on municipal issues, the outcome might have been different.
The election in Nordhausen serves as a reminder of the complexities of German politics, with voters rejecting the far-right party’s advances even in areas where it may have hoped to find support. For now, Mayor Buchmann’s re-election stands as a testament to the resilience of center-ground politics in Germany, but the AfD’s rising popularity continues to pose a challenge to the country’s political landscape.