Germany’s far right AfD party struggles to gain momentum in coming election

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Alternatives to the Germany party which entered parliament four years ago, becoming the first far-right party to win seats since World War II, is not expected to have the same success in Sunday’s election, with 11 percent showing support in the polls. . But experts say the AfD is here to stay.

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The party rallied in 2017 by backing anti-immigrant rhetoric and supporting Chancellor Angela Merkel for her decision to welcome more than a million refugees, most of them from war-torn Syria. But without that crisis at large, immigration is no longer a big issue in Germany, and the party has struggled to find a topic that resonates with swing voters.

Oliveiro Angeli, professor of political-science at the Technical University of Dresden, said the AfD has talked about COVID-19 measures during the campaign, but the issue generally divides far-right voters in Germany, including Some support restrictions and lockdowns and others oppose. Such measures.

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“That’s why the party’s campaign against Corona was not as successful as it was in 2017, when they were campaigning against Merkel’s migration policies,” he said.

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The AfD has struggled to find an approach to the pandemic that would appeal to more than just its premise. In fact, the party has changed its position several times: When the pandemic hit, prominent AfD politicians called for tougher measures; But shortly after, he demanded an immediate end to the bandh.

Uwe Jun, a professor of political science at Trier University, said the AFD did not find another issue to champion, as migration is a concern for the party’s supporters, it is not for many other voters.

Nevertheless, the AfD tried to quell fears about the possibility of Germany welcoming Afghan refugees. “Cologne, Kassel or Konstanz cannot face more Kabul,” read a party poster. Ms Merkel has said Germany would welcome 10,000 to 40,000 Afghans who helped her government or military.

But other factors have contributed to the party’s inability to attract voters, Prof. Jun said, such as tensions between moderate and hardline factions of the party and the fact that, when a new coalition government is formed, other parties will not allow the AFD. To be a part of it.

Pro. Jun said the party was unlikely to receive further support in the near future. But he said it still has supporters among voters with authoritarian values ​​in the East and among the economically disadvantaged.

“I don’t see any indication that they will leave the AfD as their preferred party. So we have to stick with the party and its strongholds in the eastern part of Germany.

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In 2017, about 13 percent of voters chose the AfD. Political observers wondered whether it would move towards the center in Parliament or seek to undermine the democratic system from within.

It’s fair to say that neither became a reality. AfD has become more radical, not less. But it has failed to achieve its goal of becoming an essential part of the coalition government.

The survey sees the AFD at 10 to 12 percent support, which would mean it could lose seats and its position as the largest opposition party in parliament.

University of Florida political scientist Marcel Lewandowski said the AFD is “currently stuck” with a stable base – partly because Merkel is retiring and the election campaign focused more on her potential successors rather than policy. Is.

Other themes the party has tried to promote have not resonated with many voters. Its slogan, “Germany. But Normal,” focuses on its nationalist policies. The AfD wants to leave the European Union, re-establish border checkpoints and restrict access to the labor market for foreign workers. We share our pension. But not with the whole world,” says one of its posters.

And party radicalization has alienated even potential voters. After the last election, AfD leader Frocke Petrie left the party, criticizing its “nationally conservative” course, and was followed by members of parliament. And prominent AfD politicians tried to oust Bjoern Hoecke, a prominent AfD politician from East Germany, from the party in 2017 when he called for a “180-degree turn” in commemoration of the country’s wartime past. He said no other country has placed a “monument of shame” in the middle of its capital, referring to the Holocaust memorial in Berlin.

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The actions and comments of some party members were deemed so extreme that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency began to watch the AfD closely as early as January 2019. According to local media, in March 2021, she wanted to keep the party under surveillance. This led to fierce internal conflicts about which direction the AfD should take.

In an interview, one of the party’s leaders, Tino Kripalla, compared the intelligence agency to the Stasi, the oppressive state security service in East Germany. His colleague Joerg Meuthen warned the party against becoming too radical – and was harshly criticized by party members.

Political scientists say the AFD will continue to shape debate and influence politics, although other parties have refused to work with them.

Benjamin Hohen, deputy director of the Institute for Parliamentary Research in Berlin, said the AFD would do worse in this election because it did not have the issue of winning, “but that does not mean that the AFD has become irrelevant to political debate.” Parties react to the AFD, even if only to prevent voters from walking away.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Granthshala editors, giving you a brief summary of the day’s most important headlines. .

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