Voters in the industrial town of Nordhausen took to the polls on Sunday for the election that could end with far-right AfD party getting its first mayor in Germany.
AfD candidate Jörg Prophet is the clear favorite in the runoff mayor race. The 61-year-old entrepreneur won over 42% of votes in the first round two weeks ago, with the incumbent mayor Kai Buchmann securing only 23.7%.
Buchmann, an independent formerly associated with the Green party, hopes to harness support from mainstream voters who view AfD as right-wing extremists. Germany’s established parties have united to keep AfD out of power in the past, but the taboo against cooperating with them seems to be fading as the AfD’s popularity rises.
Recent polls put AfD at around 21.5% support nationwide. But in the state of Thuringia, where Nordhausen is located, the party polls at around 32%.
The populist party has been mired in numerous controversies over their anti-migrant stance, with mainstream politicians warning of parallels between AfD ideology and the Nazis. Recently, a court in Thuringia, where Nordhausen is located, decided that AfD’s regional leader Bjorn Höcke would face trial for allegedly using a banned Nazi slogan in a speech.
Earlier in June, the AfD occupied the post of district administration for the first time, after its member Robert Sesselmann won the district council election in the Thuringian district of Sonneberg.
AfD candidate and Germany’s past
Nordhausen, with its population of around 42,000, is located near former concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora, a part of the larger Buchenwald complex. In Mittelbau-Dora, slave labor was used to build V-2 rockets, with about one out of three workers dying.
Mayoral candidate Prophet has already raised eyebrows with his statements on Germany’s past, stating that Allies troops who liberated the Mittelbau-Dora camp were soley interested in information about rockets and missiles.
He also urged an end to Germany’s “guilt cult” describing Germans’ attitudes towards the Holocaust.
Head of memorial foundation wants AfD mayor to keep out
Commenting on the ongoing election to the AFP news agency, the head of the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation Jens-Christian Wagner said an AfD mayor would not be welcome at commemorative events at the site.
“The AfD is an extreme right-wing party whose ideology is congruent or at least very similar in many areas to the ideology of the National Socialists,” he said.
“Everything I hear from Nordhausen… suggests that Prophet will be elected not despite such historical revisionist positions, but precisely because of such positions,” Wagner said.
dj/jcg (AFD, dpa)
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