Smaller Political Parties In Germany Could Become Powerbrokers | KUOW News and Information

Smaller Political Parties In Germany Could Become Powerbrokers

Sep 5, 2017
Originally published on September 5, 2017 9:10 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To Germany now where the election season has, truth been told, been pretty lackluster, at least until last night when raucous debate broke out among candidates from smaller political parties. They are vying for third place. That's right - the race for third in German national elections. And they could end up being key powerbrokers, as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Televised debates here tend to lack the drama of those in the U.S., like this past weekend when Chancellor Angela Merkel and her main rival Martin Schulz were lampooned in the German media for engaging in a, quote, "duet rather than a duel." But there was no such harmony last night during the debate between the top candidates from five smaller parties who are also running against Merkel.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Yelling in German).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Yelling in German).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Yelling in German).

NELSON: They shouted and interrupted one another and the moderators who struggled to steer them toward issues German voters care about, like affordable housing and terrorism. None of these smaller party candidates has a realistic chance of unseating Merkel whose CDU political party has long been the frontrunner in weekly opinion polls. But the stakes for the runner-ups are high because the CDU isn't likely to win enough seats for Merkel to govern without forming a coalition government.

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CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Merkel said during her debate, there is no way she will join with The Left Party, which is the successor to the former East German communist Party, or with Alternative for Germany, which is a newer party made up of right-wing populists who are staunchly anti-Islam. But even so, the two parties could influence policy and in Alternative for Germany's case - already do. It came in third in recent opinion polls. And there are fears the party might gain even more voters.

That has led Merkel's government to replace its welcoming stance toward refugees with policies aimed at limiting asylum and increasing deportations. Just how nervous German politicians are about Alternative for Germany was clear last night. Its lead candidate Alice Weidel was asked how she felt about bringing, quote, "half-Nazis" into the German parliament.

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ALICE WEIDEL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Weidel defended her party's perspective MPs, describing them as academics who would deliver constructive policies for Germany's future.

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CHRISTIAN LINDNER: (Speaking German).

NELSON: One of her liberal rivals, Christian Lindner, replied, this isn't about how many Ph.D.s your party has, but its character. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE AMERICAN DOLLAR'S "PATH OF TOTALITY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.