The far-right extremist party earned between three and six seats in every council and garnered a total of 5.1 percent of the vote, the state statistics office in Kamenz reported on Monday. The NPD improved considerably from the last municipal county elections in 2004, when the extremists didn’t yet have seats in the state legislature. That year they won just 0.9 percent of the vote in municipal elections but took 9.2 percent in a vote for the state parliament.
The known neo-Nazi stronghold Reinhardtsdorf-Schöna, a town of only 1,600, gave the NPD the biggest share of the county council seats. There the extremists were the second most-popular party with 25.2 percent of the vote.
The NPD’s success stole the spotlight from Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), which had a clear lead in the municipal elections with 39.5 percent of the vote. The hard-line socialist party The Left earned 18.7 percent, while the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) came in at just 11.5 percent.
“The NPD has managed to cultivate a group of core voters,” head of the anti-extremist initiative group Aktion Zivilcourage in Pirna, Sebastian Reißig, told news agency DDP on Monday. “It’s become a party worthy of voting for not just a few people.”
Reißig also criticized the lack of government funding for projects like his to prevent right-wing extremism. “You can’t expect great success against the right when we don’t have any planning security because budgets are allocated only until year’s end,” he told DDP.
The NPD’s success comes in the wake of protests and calls from politicians to ban the xenophobic party as polls show its increasing popularity in eastern Germany. But many argue that banning the group altogether would be dangerous, driving it underground and making it even more attractive to those disaffected with the politics of the day.