Rising nationalism boosts Germany’s populist AfD to polls victory
search

Rising nationalism boosts Germany’s populist AfD to polls victory

Begun as a eurosceptic party in 2013, the movement has increasingly turned to xenophobia and anger towards asylum-seekers

Top candidate of the populist right party Alternative for Germany (AfD), Leif-Erik Holm, talks to the media  during the regional elections in Barner Stueck, near Klein Trebbow, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, eastern Germany, on September 4, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / dpa / Daniel Bockwoldt)
Top candidate of the populist right party Alternative for Germany (AfD), Leif-Erik Holm, talks to the media during the regional elections in Barner Stueck, near Klein Trebbow, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, eastern Germany, on September 4, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / dpa / Daniel Bockwoldt)

BERLIN (AFP) — Populist party “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) began life at the height of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis in 2013 on an anti-euro platform, but it has now firmly repositioned itself as a xenophobic group.

After fears over a potential euro collapse waned, the party turned its anger against a million asylum-seekers who arrived in Germany last year.

It has steadily gained popularity even though leading AfD members regularly sparked outrage over racist remarks — including one suggesting that a German team with fewer non-white players could have beaten France in the Euro 2016 semi-final.

Exit polls in Sunday’s regional elections in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania show support reaching around 21 percent for the party, unseating Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union from second place.

Merkel had urged voters to shun AfD, which she described as a party that offers no solutions to problems, and which is simply a protest platform espousing hate.

Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has compared the AfD to the Nazis.

Founded by economics professor Bernd Luecke, the party quickly struck a chord with voters disillusioned with the politics of Germany’s main parties, particularly Merkel’s CDU, and drew those who were horrified at having to bail out southern countries.

Chiarwoman of German populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) Frauke Petry is pictured on February 3, 2016 at the Saxony state parliament in Dresden. (AFP / dpa / Arno Burgi)
Chiarwoman of German populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) Frauke Petry is pictured on February 3, 2016 at the Saxony state parliament in Dresden. (AFP / dpa / Arno Burgi)

Although AfD fell short of getting a foothold in the national parliament in 2013 elections, garnering 4.7% rather than the 5% threshold necessary to capture seats, it quickly showed that it was here to stay.

In May 2014, it sent seven deputies to the European Parliament with 6.5% of the vote.

It continued to broaden its reach, capturing seats in the regional parliaments of Saxony, Brandenburg, Thuringia, Hamburg and Bremen.

But the AfD was soon riven by an internal rift between the moderate Luecke and the hardline Frauke Petry, which was tugging the party further right.

As Petry prevailed and took over as party chief in July 2015, the tone of the AfD lurched right, although it has also been careful to distance itself from neo-Nazi party NPD.

Petry’s ascent to power came just as Germany suddenly woke up to tens of thousands of asylum-seekers streaming into the country on a weekly basis.

Refugees from Syria wait to register at the German army's air base in Erding, southern Germany, on January 31, 2016. (AFP/dpa/Andreas GEBERT)
Refugees from Syria wait to register at the German army’s air base in Erding, southern Germany, on January 31, 2016. (AFP/dpa/Andreas GEBERT)

Petry did not mince her words on her feelings towards migrants, unleashing a storm when she suggested that police should be allowed to shoot at migrants to stop them entering Germany.

“No policeman wants to fire on a refugee and I don’t want that either. But as a last resort there should be recourse to firearms,” said Petry, who has admitted employing provocation to make an impression.

Other members of the party have also drawn condemnation for making racist slurs, including against footballer Jerome Boateng, who was born in Berlin to a German mother and Ghanaian father.

AfD deputy leader Alexander Gauland had said in May that “people find him good as a footballer, but they don’t want to have a Boateng as a neighbor.”

Another deputy leader Beatrix von Storch also made a jibe at players with immigrant roots after Germany’s 2-0 defeat to France, writing on Twitter that “maybe next time the German NATIONAL TEAM should play again.”

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

For as little as $6 a month, you can help support our independent journalism — and enjoy special benefits and status as a Times of Israel Community member!

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Join our community
read more:
comments