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Alarm raised as extremist party wins seats in eastern German state

BERLIN, Sept 7 (JTA) – The success of an extreme right-wing party in elections this week in the eastern German state of Brandenburg has sounded alarm bells. Jewish leaders and liberal activists fear that the German People’s Party, which could have as many as five seats in the state’s Parliament after Sunday’s election, will now have an official platform for its xenophobic rhetoric in Brandenburg. Brandenburg has suffered a steady rise in unemployment and right-wing extremism since the reunification of East and West Germany 10 years ago. Last year, the party won seats in the neighboring state of Sachsen-Anhalt. It is unlikely that the People’s Party will be able to win the support it would need from other parties in Brandenburg in order to implement its anti-immigrant policies. In Sachsen-Anhalt, the mainstream parties have marginalized the People’s Party representatives. But the lack of real power does not make the election results more palatable, said Andreas Nachama, president of Berlin’s Jewish Community. “There is no way to put it nicely,” he said, calling for a “battle” with the leaders of the People’s Party using “all the political means that democracy can use.” “It’s a disaster,” said Dieter Tienkny, spokesman for the Berlin-Brandenburg region of the Federation of German Unions, which since 1991 has worked with the Berlin Jewish community, Christian groups and sport clubs to fight xenophobia and racism in Brandenburg. Shortly after polls closed Sunday, vote counts showed that the People’s Party had won at least 5.5 percent of the vote, passing the 5 percent minimum required in order to have a representative in the state Parliament. As a result, as many as five seats could be taken by members of the People’s Party, which derives its financial and ideological sustenance from Munich businessman Gerhard Frey. Frey is publisher of the National Zeitung, an extremist newspaper that frequently tests the limit of German law by suggesting that the Holocaust was not as bad as historians make it out to be. Frey’s political dogma, repeated in his newspaper and in People’s Party election posters, blames foreigners for crime in Germany and for high jobless rates. He reportedly invested $1.4 million in election advertising in Brandenburg.

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