- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2006

BERLIN — A far-right party that shares Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s doubts about the Holocaust and wants to deport foreigners is expected to make strong gains in elections in an eastern German state tomorrow.

Opinion polls indicate the National Democratic Party (NPD), which calls for the repatriation of foreigners and opposes immigration, will get the minimum 5 percent needed to enter the assembly in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, an economically depressed rural region known chiefly for its beautiful Baltic coastline.

“The opinion poll results appear to be unsettling the media cartel and the mainstream parties to such an extent that they can only resort to lies,” said Udo Pastors, the NPD’s leading candidate.

He was referring to charges that NPD backers intimidate opponents and disrupt campaign events.

The party made international headlines in 2004 when voters elected it to the regional parliament in Saxony, another eastern state, with 9.2 percent of the vote.

The NPD and another far-right party, the German People’s Union (DVU), are now represented in two of Germany’s five former communist eastern states — embarrassing a country that has spent decades atoning for the Holocaust. Their nationwide support, however, remains marginal.

There is little awareness or guilt about the Holocaust among the party’s supporters because Germany’s Nazi past wasn’t addressed under the communist regime in the east.

“The NPD is well organized and is tapping into people’s feelings that they have lost out as a result of unification,” said Manfred Gullner, director of the Forsa polling institute. Unemployment in the state, Germany’s most sparsely populated one, is 18.2 percent, the highest among the 16 states and far above the national rate of 10.5 percent.

The failure of the mainstream parties to cope with the mass unemployment and social upheaval after unification made people more receptive to the radical right, said professor Hajo Funke of Berlin’s Free University, an analyst of far-right trends. “Many people have the feeling that they’re superfluous,” he said.

Eastern anger has provided fertile ground for the NPD, especially among young people, he said.

Like all other parties, the NPD receives state funding because it is a legal party. An attempt to ban it failed in 2002 when Germany’s Supreme Court rejected the case because some of the NPD members accused of stoking racism turned out to be informants for the intelligence service.



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