Germany’s recent election brought an overtly nationalist party into parliament for the first time in over 60 years.The AfD or Alternative for Germany party is a far-right eurosceptic group with anti-immigration and anti-Islamic views. After narrowly missing the threshold to sit in the Bundestag in a 2013 election, the party won nearly 14% of the vote or a projected 95 seats this year, making them the third largest party in the German parliament.
Following the election results, people went to Berlin’s central streets to protest. Protestors yelled slogans like “All Berlin hates the AfD!” and “Nazi pigs!” and threw bottles. As a result, police held them back from the building, where AfD leaders were celebrating their victory.
The AfD was formed in 2013 at the height of the European debt crisis as an anti-EU and anti-Euro party. The group has since shifted into staunchly conservative, inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims and immigrants.
The party’s manifesto advocates for a sovereign Germany, a prohibition on women wearing the veil, and the creation of a border police force an end to Angela Merkel’s pro-immigration policies.
In 2015, the party’s co-leader Frauke Petry caused international condemnation, when she suggested that police should be allowed to use firearms against illegal migrants at Germany’s borders.
The AfD’s manifesto also includes sections titled Islam does not belong to Germany and German as a predominant culture instead of multiculturalism. The manifesto also details a strategy to increase the birth rate among ethnic Germans to stop what they consider the negative cultural impacts of immigration.
For these reasons, many observers and protestors have likened the AfD to Hitler’s National Socialist Party, with prominent Jewish leaders expressing their concern.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told the DPA news agency, “Seventy years after the end of the war, neo-Nazis are again sitting in the Bundestag.”
Angela Merkel is set to start her fourth term as Chancellor, though her Christian Democrat Party won only 33% of the vote, down from 41% four years ago. Merkel said her party faced an “extraordinary challenge” in the 2015 refugee crisis and managed to remain Germany’s largest party.
At the height of the refugee crisis, Merkel’s government accepted approximately one million asylum-seekers. The move was met with fierce criticism from the AfD at the time, who said that Merkel’s policies carried unacceptable fiscal and social costs.
Many hope that Merkel’s leadership will be able to moderate the more extreme elements in the newly formed Bundestag. In her post-election speech, Merkel pledged to listen to AfD voters and win back anyone she could with what she called “good politics.”
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