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Berlin’s mayor warns of growing AfD support

The mayor of Berlin has warned that Germany’s populist right AfD party could expand its reach in the capital in upcoming local elections. The anti-immigrant party has enjoyed a surge in support during the refugee crisis.

Mayor Michael Müller told German newspaper “Bild am Sonntag” that the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) had the potential to win in several of Berlin’s districts when voters head to the polls next month.

“The problem is not just 10 AfD members out of 140 representatives in the state parliament. That won’t change the city. A big problem would be when the AfD takes one or two seats at the district level,” Müller said.

If that eventuates, it would give the AfD a “kind of governmental responsibility” in the capital, he added. “The district councils have influence over budgets worth millions and hundreds of administrative employees.”

Müller is a member of the center-left Social Democrats, which govern the city in a coalition with the center-right Christian Democrats.

AfD gaining backers

The AfD was founded three years ago as a euroskeptic party, but has since veered further to the right with an anti-immigrant platform. The influx of more than 1 million asylum seekers into Germany last year fueled support for the party, especially among critics of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy on refugees.

The AfD now has representation in eight of Germany’s 16 states. Nationally, the party is polling at around 12 percent, while in Berlin support is around 14 percent.

Elections for the Berlin state parliament and city district councils are due to take place on September 18. Some analysts expect the AfD to perform better than the polling numbers suggest.

Commenting on the upcoming vote, Georg Pazderski, the AfD head in Berlin, told “Bild” his party was in a position to take up to four of Berlin’s 12 council districts.

nm/rc (AFP, dpa)

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