The German Geert Wilders

A former member of Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats has formed a party to attract voters enthralled by Thilo Sarrazin and disappointed by Germany’s existing parties. Berlin politician René Stadtkewitz’s new Freedom Party aims to leverage fear of Islam for political ends.

For Stadtkewitz the debate that broke out after Thilo Sarrazin, the former member of the board of the German Central Bank, published a book claiming that Muslims would soon outnumber ethnic Germans and that they were dumbing down the country, went something like this: After reading Sarrazin’s book, shortly after it was published, Stadtkewitz realized that he liked what he was reading. He felt validated and encouraged.

In a poll commissioned by the left-leaning newspaper Berliner Zeitung, 24 percent of Berlin residents stated that they could imagine voting for a “party directed against Islam.” And a survey conducted by the Emnid opinion research firm concluded that 18 percent of Germans would vote for a Sarrazin party. A Sarrazin party doesn’t even exist. But now there is one lead by René Stadtkewitz, a small business owner from Berlin’s Karow district.