Cheers, long applause, hugs: After the failure of the AfD candidate Jörg Prophet in the mayoral election in Nordhausen, citizens and politicians expressed their relief. According to historian and Buchenwald memorial director Jens-Christian Wagner, there is still reason for concern.
“In Nordhausen, the danger that there will be an extreme right-wing mayor has been averted,” Wagner told the German Press Agency. At the same time, more than 45 percent voted for someone “who represents a closed historical revisionist worldview,” said Wagner. That is cause for concern.
In a runoff election in Nordhausen yesterday, incumbent Kai Buchmann (non-party) prevailed with 54.9 percent of the vote against AfD politician Jörg Prophet, who received 45.1 percent. However, the AfD could have another chance for a mayoral office in just two weeks: In a first round of elections for the new mayor of Bitterfeld-Wolfen in Saxony-Anhalt, the AfD candidate Henning Dornack received the most votes on Sunday - 33.8 percent . Incumbent Armin Schenk (CDU) received 29.1. Both have to stand in the runoff election on October 8th.
Prophet wrong als manages Favorite
The Vice President of the German Bundestag, Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Greens) wrote on But she also wrote: "The outcome of today's election shows how difficult the fight is for our democracy, how hard we have to fight for democratic majorities." Göring-Eckardt comes from Thuringia.
The leader of the Green parliamentary group, Britta Haßelmann, also wrote on X: “It depends on democrats, they have to stand together.”
In Nordhausen, the initial situation was considered extremely difficult in advance: disciplinary proceedings were ongoing against Buchmann, and he had since been suspended due to allegations of bullying until a court overturned this. Prophet, on the other hand, was the clear favorite after the first round of voting. On election day, citizens spoke of having the choice between “hardship and misery.”
Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution sees a “historical revisionist agenda”
Memorial director Wagner said that the signal from this election result was that a civil society could manage to "put a right-wing extremist historical revisionist in his place." The Thuringian AfD is classified and monitored by the state Office for the Protection of the Constitution as a confirmed right-wing extremist movement.
In the run-up to the election it became known that Prophet had attracted attention with historical revisionist texts. The Thuringian Office for the Protection of the Constitution also cited one of its texts as an example of the AfD's "historical revisionist agenda." Nordhausen has around 42,000 inhabitants.
Expert: AfD less successful in cities
The Jena sociologist Axel Salheiser also sees differences between the city and the country as crucial for the AfD's surprising failure in the mayoral election in Nordhausen in Thuringia. “Nordhausen is not Sonneberg and it makes a clear difference whether we are talking about a district or a city,” said the scientific director of the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society (IDZ) Jena.
The AfD is less successful in cities. “In urban areas, even in small medium-sized cities, there is a different composition of the electorate and different socio-demographic conditions,” said Salheiser, who also works at the Research Institute for Social Cohesion (FGZ). In cities, people are less at risk of feeling particularly disadvantaged as a social group, the researcher explained.
Salheiser emphasized that there had been a "strong, democratic counter-mobilization" in Nordhausen in the past two weeks since the first round of elections. “That played a big role, I think.” In addition, “interpretive elites” have taken a clear position. These provided fact-based information about “what is at stake when radical right-wing and anti-democratic actors stand for election.” This influence should not be underestimated. In his opinion, it also helped that the incumbent does not belong to one of the parties in government.