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The French Socialist Party, formerly one of the greatest vote-winning machines in Europe, has virtually collapsed, while the two major German parties, the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, are in headlong retreat.Both the Far Right and the Far Left, meanwhile, are on the march. But even in the age of Brexit and President Trump, Germany’s election results on Sunday were an extraordinary rebuke to the governing elite’s complacent assumptions. We have heard the same two sentences again and again over the past few years — and again and again, they have been proved wrong.
Just over 70 years after the Third Reich, the prospect of an openly nationalist, xenophobic, Far Right party taking so many seats in Germany’s parliament fills many people, quite rightly, with unbridled horror.In an age when so many of us feel buffeted by remote, unaccountable forces, the one thing people crave is a degree of control over their own lives, their towns and their streets.In part, this explains why so many people voted to leave the EU a year ago: as the slogan had it, they wanted to ‘take back control’.Usually Germany is held up as the model to follow when it comes to combating winter.Teams of snowploughs are deployed on autobahns and trunk roads within minutes of the first flakes of snow dropping from the skies.
Mrs Merkel’s foreign minister, for example, has talked of his shock at the prospect of seeing ‘real Nazis in the German Reichstag for the first time since World War II’.