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German Populists Vow To ‘Hunt’ Merkel, ‘Reclaim’ Country After Election Success

REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent

Populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) is prepared to “hunt” Chancellor Angela Merkel down, leading candidate Alexander Gauland said after finishing third in Sunday’s election.

AfD made a late push in polls to finish as the third largest party with around 13 percent, according to exit polls. The party has focused its campaign on an anti-immigration agenda, and Gauland vowed to continue the push after entering parliament for the first time.

“Dear friends, now that we’re obviously the third biggest power … the government has to buckle up,” Gauland told supporters. “We will hunt them. We will hunt Ms Merkel … and we will reclaim our country and our people.”

The party broke a longstanding taboo that has kept right-wing populists out of German politics for decades. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won by a clear margin but dropped nine percentage points since the last election. The results indicate that many CDU voters turned to AfD over Merkel’s handling of the migrant crisis.

“We will have to conduct an in-depth analysis because we want to win back the voters who voted for AfD,” Merkel said in her victory speech.

AfD hopes to create a committee to investigate whether Merkel’s decision to open the borders to refugees followed due process.

“The first thing we’ll do is keep our first promise to launch a committee to investigate Angela Merkel,” Gauland said.

AfD hoped to become the largest opposition party. Merkel will likely seek a coalition with the Green party and the liberal Free Democrats instead of the Social Democrats, who finished as a clear second. AfD’s success still sent shockwaves after months of negative media coverage.

Alice Weidel, AfD’s other leading candidate, allegedly called Merkel a “pig” while describing the country as “overrun” by Arabs in an email leaked two weeks before election. Weidel firmly denies she ever wrote the email, and AfD accused newspaper Welt am Sonntag of running a smear campaign against the party.

Gauland made headlines after suggesting Germany has a right to be proud of its soldiers who fought in the world wars.

“We have the right to reclaim not just our country, but also our past,” he said during a party meeting in September.

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