In a new German political ad, a young woman in a dimly lighted underground crossing gazes directly into the camera. She flashes a concerned look, then references the series of sexual assaults in the city of Cologne allegedly committed by migrants on New Year’s Eve. “I want to feel carefree and safe when I go out,” the woman says in the spot. Afterward, a voice demands the deportation of criminal migrants. Sponsored by the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party ahead of key local elections this Sunday, the ad is heralding the rise of a new brand of right-wing populism in this nation still haunted by its Nazi past.
Polling as high as 18 percent in one of the three states where voters are heading to the ballot box this weekend, the three-year-old AfD is catching on as never before. It has done that in part by turning Sunday’s vote into a referendum on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy for asylum seekers.
After largely wallowing on the fringes of German politics, the party could leverage a strong showing this weekend, emerging as a significant new political force here — this despite harsh statements by its leaders deemed outrageous by German political elites and seen by some observers as downright Donald Trumpesque.