Major parties called it a debacle and a protest vote, but the far-right German People's Union saw its surprisingly strong showing in a state election in eastern Germany as a "dream result."
Denounced by many as neo-Nazis, the nationalistic fringe party outspent the two main parties combined in Saxony-Anhalt, the country's most depressed region with unemployment of 22.6 percent.An estimated $1.7 million bought tens of thousands of posters with slogans like "Foreign Bandits Out" and "German Money for German Jobs," as well as direct mail to voters and even banners pulled by airplanes.
Television projections showed the party, known by its German initials DVU, came from nowhere to win about 13 percent of the vote Sunday, good for 14 seats in the 99-seat statehouse. It ran especially strong among people under 30 and the unemployed.
Helmut Wolf, the DVU's lead candidate in the state, called it a "dream result," but refused to say what kind of policies the party would pursue in the legislature.
Party leader Gerhard Frey, a millionaire publisher of right-wing newspapers, bristled when someone shouted "Nazis out!" as he entered the statehouse to talk to reporters.
"Everybody has a vote here," he shot back.
Founded in 1987 to fight Germany's liberal refugee laws, the DVU largely shunned day-to-day politics when it sat for a time in the legislature in the city-state of Bremen.
It almost made it into government last September in Germany's second-biggest city, Hamburg, where it did especially well in decaying traditional working-class areas.
But Frey has lacked the high profile of other far-right leaders in Europe, such as France's Jean-Marie Le Pen.