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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, December 17, 2017


Will Germany's right-wing AfD Party manage to topple Merkel?

Hoping to make a dent in German national elections

Share on Facebook September 20, 2017, Reporter : BNN, Reader : 428


BERLIN, Germany - As German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s support soars, Germany's right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party seems poised for major gains on election day.

Hoping to make a dent in German national elections scheduled to be held on September 24, AfD is poised to rise as the country’s third largest political party. 

According to recent opinion polls, the party is seen to be scoring as much as 12 percent of the vote on Election Day, allowing it to send dozens of lawmakers to national Parliament - or Bundestag - and potentially disrupting German politics.

The rise in popularity comes despite the party suffering several embarrassing internal spats, that saw it polling numbers sink.

If the party performs as per the opinion polls, it would be the first time since the end of World War II that a far-right party has attracted enough votes to enter Germany’s Parliament. 

Further, the strong showing means the AfD will be the biggest opposition party if Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) continues its governing coalition with the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Referring to Afd, Karen Donfried, the president of the German Marshall Fund said, "It's without question a significant achievement for a right-wing party when you view it historically.”

Donfried added that because of its Nazi history, German voters have usually rejected right-wing parties in elections, “But this is a significant shift for the German political landscape.”

The AfD was founded in 2013 as an anti-European Union party and has since shifted its focus from the euro zone debt crisis to immigration after Merkel opened the doors to over a million migrants in 2015, many that were fleeing war in the Middle East.

The party received significant success thereon, reiterating its anti-immigration stance each time Germany was struck by a terror attack.

The party has become the most visible anti-immigration party in Germany and has scored well in a series of regional elections - cashing in on the growing public anger over Merkel's welcoming policy toward refugees, particularly those from Syria.

Commenting on AfD’s success, Gideon Botsch, a political scientist at the University of Potsdam just outside Berlin, said that the party’s success is partly due to the disillusionment voters feel with Germany's established political parties.

Botsch said, “Many voters, especially on the right but also in the center, have felt that the two traditional parties have not addressed the issue of immigration and German cultural identity. And that has led them to consider voting for the AfD.”

The staunchly anti-immigrant party opposes any welcoming of Muslims to Germany.

It has called for sealing the European Union’s borders, instituting rigorous identity checks along Germany's national borders and setting up holding camps abroad to prevent migrants from leaving for Germany in the first place. 

As part of its policy, it also wants to deport anyone whose application for political asylum is rejected while encouraging foreigners to return to their home countries.

According to AfD leaders, the few migrants who are allowed to remain in the country have a duty to fully integrate into German society, emphasizing the primacy of the German language and traditional German culture. 

Further, many of AfD’s top officials have even outwardly rejected the idea that Islam is part of German society.

In a bold statement, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel had equated the party with the Nazis who ruled the country from 1933 to 1945. 

Such an insult is rarely heard in modern national politics.

In an interview with an internet company, Gabriel, who is a member of the Social Democrats said, “If we’re unlucky, then these people will send a signal of dissatisfaction that will have terrible consequences. Then we will have real Nazis in the German Reichstag for the first time since the end of World War II.”

Further, Justice Minister Heiko Maas has warned that the AfD's religious, family, criminal and European policies are in clear violation of the German constitution. 

Writing in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, Maas singled out a blanket ban on towers on mosques or minarets from which the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer - which the AfD has promised to introduce.

AfD meanwhile has argued that the party supports direct democracy, separation of state powers and the rule of law and order.

Some of its members have however been accused by critics of promoting neo-Nazi ideas and using neo-Nazi language.

A report in the weekly Welt am Sonntag appeared earlier this month, claiming that the party’s co-leader Alice Weidel had expressed racist views in a private email four years ago. 

The weekly had quoted from an email Weidel allegedly sent to an acquaintance in which she claimed the government was trying to cause "civil war" by systematically flooding German cities with Arab and Roma migrants.

Weidel’s leaked email also saw her describing the current government as “pigs” who are “nothing more than marionettes of the victorious powers of the second world war, whose task it is to keep down the German people.”

Dismissing the report, top AfD officials rushed to defend Weidel.

However, Weidel’s lawyer has not rejected she was behind the email. 

Following the scandal, the AfD developed a series of controversial campaign advertisements, including one showing the belly of a pregnant woman that says “New Germans? We'll make them ourselves.” 

Another advertisement declared, “Burkas? We prefer bikinis.”

Donfried has meanwhile said, “In years past, these kinds of ads would turn off many voters in Germany. But this time around they seem to resonate with some voters and that’s been a problem for the two main politics parties.”

AfD MP Alexander Gauland recently said Germany should not shy away from its military achievements.

The 76-year-old said, “If the French are rightly proud of their emperor and the Britons of Nelson and Churchill, we have the right to be proud of the achievements the German soldiers in world wars. People no longer need to reproach us with these 12 years. They don’t relate to our identity nowadays.” 

Piotr Buras, head of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, expects the grand coalition - made up of the Christian Democrats and SPD - to remain in power after the election next year. 

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