Martin Schulz, the leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party has vowed to defend the country’s democratic values by being an effective opposition the government, following a surge in support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in parliamentary elections on Sunday.

Germany’s Social Democratic Party won’t take part in another grand coalition and will instead “defend democracy” by being in opposition to the government, SDP leader Martin Schulz said after the party suffered a heavy defeat in Sunday’s national elections.

“We have understood our task — to be a strong opposition in this country and to defend democracy against those who question it and attack it,” he told party members at their Berlin headquarters.

The main parties were the biggest losers in Sunday’s elections, with the SPD’s vote share decreasing by 5.2% to 20.5% and the vote share of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) down 8.6% in comparison with 2013.

The biggest winners were the far-right Alternative for Germany, which took 12.6% of the vote, and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), which came fourth with 10.7% of the vote.

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