Germany's AfD hails polls as 'good day for democracy'

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Berlin (AFP)

The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party on Monday hailed regional elections in which it achieved breakthrough results as "a good day for democracy".

Its leader Frauke Petry said it was time to reassess Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal refugee policy, which she slammed as costly and based on false ideas on how well migrants would integrate into the labour market.

"We have to reassess what is doable and what can be financed in this country -- and not, like the left, spread utopian ideas about how many millions and billions more in taxpayers' money can be spent, now that we have realised that the fairytale of skilled migrants from civil war areas obviously isn't true."

"The AfD wants to re-establish the rule of law in this country," she told a Berlin press conference, highlighting problems such as "ethnic violence" and police no-go areas in big cities.

The AfD, formed three years ago as an anti-euro party but now running mainly on an anti-migrant platform, scored between 12 and 24 percent in three state elections Sunday.

It is now represented in half of Germany's 16 state assemblies as well as the European parliament and is hoping to enter the national parliament in elections due late next year.

"Germany voted yesterday in three regions and we believe that this was a good day for democracy in this country," said Petry.

"We are the party that can credibly show that it has addressed, since its creation in 2013, the problems that are being ignored in this country," added the 40-year-old trained chemist.

"German society, not just now but for many years, has experienced a continuous disintegration which is clearly reflected in the impoverishment of the middle class, where families are increasingly overwhelmed and the future of our country is in question."

Faced with this situation, "we want to be the party of social peace," she proclaimed, hailing the AfD victories wich she said came "despite an extensive smear campaign in recent weeks".

Asked how close the AfD was to France's far- right National Front and Austria's Freedom Party, Petry said she did not wish to engage in "a debate on labels".

Party co-leader Joerg Meuthen, however, distanced the AfD from the National Front, calling Marine Le Pen's group "a party that has deeply nationalist and socialist ideas, which is alien to our party".

Meuthen said the AfD is "a new conservative force, liberal, respectful of civic values, open to the world and at the same time patriotic".

He insisted the party could rightly be labelled "right-wing conservative" but not far-right, declaring "that's nonsense".

He also said that, although Germany accepts people of different faiths, "Islam is not part of Germany", rejecting a statement repeatedly made by Merkel and other political leaders.