• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Merkel blamed as populists surge across Germany
Supporters of Alternative für Deutschland celebrate gains in the Saxony-Anhalt state elections on Sunday. Photo: DPA

Merkel blamed as populists surge across Germany

AFP · 14 Mar 2016, 08:00

Published: 13 Mar 2016 19:57 GMT+01:00
Updated: 14 Mar 2016 08:00 GMT+01:00

Traumatized by its Nazi past, post-war Germany has carefully relegated right-wing populist movements to the fringes of politics, but the anti-migrant AfD may have muscled its way in from the cold.
 
With discontent growing in Germany over Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal refugee policy, the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) on Sunday captured seats in the regional parliaments of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rhineland Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt, with backing at double-digits in all three, estimates by public broadcasters showed.
 
Andreas Roedder, contemporary history professor at Mainz University, told AFP that due to the migrant crisis, "we are seeing a normalisation of right-wing populist movements in Germany just like elsewhere in Europe, even if here, it takes on a special form because we can't ignore Germany's past."
 
This is not the first time that Germany has experienced such a surge in populism since 1945. Neither is it the first time that such right-wing parties have been able to capture seats in regional parliaments.
 
In the 1960s, the NPD, and in the late 1980s and early 1990s the Republikaner – a splinter party from the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) – both managed to send deputies to regional parliaments.
 
But each time, they have proved to be no more than passing fads.
 
The Christian conservative alliance of the CDU and CSU has thus far been able to occupy the right of the political spectrum, preventing any party from having any lasting claim further right.
 
That has until now made German politics unique, compared to Austria, Switzerland or France, where far-right parties have traditionally had a stronger presence in the political arena.
 
Much of the reason boils down to war guilt that has made Germans determined to never give the so-called "brown shirts" a chance to rule the nation again.
 
'Shame for Germany'
 
But AfD has arrived on the political scene at a fortuitous moment.
 
After a record 1.1 million asylum seekers arrived in Germany in 2015 alone, many Germans are unsettled by what this sudden surge in newcomers mean for their homeland -- a fear that AfD has capitalised on.
 
First founded in 2013 on an anti-euro platform, it found its first supporters through its claims to defend Germans against free-spending southern EU nations.
 
Since then it has morphed into a party that has even suggested that police may have to shoot at migrants to stop them from entering the country.
 
While its first successes were concentrated in the former communist east, which has been lagging the west in terms of jobs and opportunities, it is now gaining ground also in prosperous western states.
 
"AfD has become a national German party," said the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
 
Opinion polls suggest that AfD might even capture seats in the lower house of parliament in elections in 2017 in what would be an unprecedented success for such a movement.
 
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, known for being a straight-talker, simply described AfD as a "shame for Germany".
 
"Until now, right-wing populist or extreme-right parties are considered taboo, considered like aliens in the political sphere," said German political analyst Wolfgang Merkel in a interview with Tagesspiegel daily.
 
Story continues below…
Mainstream parties have stridently refused any sort of television debate with AfD members.
 
But the analyst believes that the taboo surrounding such right-wing populism could be soon shattered.
 
"In which case, we would have to live with AfD like France does with the National Front and Switzerland with the SVP (Swiss People's Party), and be confronted daily with xenophobia in political discourse," he said.
 
Some believe that the chancellor herself is to blame for pushing a middle ground politics that tries to be all things to all people. Although her strategy has led her party to win over some from the centre-left Social Democrats, it has left its right flank exposed.
 
"With the 'social democratisation' and therefore a shift left of the CDU under the chancellor's mandate, it's more difficult for the Christian Democrats to cover all bases on the right," said Bernhard Wessels, political analyst at Berlin's Humboldt University.
 
Die Welt daily went as far as to say that "AfD is Merkel's child" because the CDU has "ditched its identity".
 
By Yacine le Forestier 

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Today's headlines
Ten injured after freight train crashes into bus in Osnabrück
The crash site in Osnabrück. Photo: DPA

A freight train crashed into a bus in Osnabrück on Wednesday morning, leaving several people badly injured, local media report.

Man wins ten-year court battle over €2.50 surcharge
Photo: DPA

An Austrian man has won a ten year court battle over an extra €2.50 he was asked to pay to get into a swimming pool in Bavaria a decade ago.

In Pictures
Düsseldorf swoons as Prince William comes for royal visit
'Well hello Mr. Prince'. Photo: DPA.

Prince William paid a visit to the Rhineland city of Düsseldorf on Wednesday to celebrate the state of North Rhine-Westphalia's 70th birthday. Here's a look at his royal stay.

Brexit
Frankfurt attempts to charm banks away from London
Frankfurt am Main. Photo: DPA

Germany's finance capital has spotted an opportunity with the Brexit-wary banking beasts of the Square Mile.

How did this bike end up on top of Berlin’s Molecule Man?
A professional climber 'rescuing' the bike hanging from the Molecule Man. Photo: DPA.

Berliners are still scratching their heads over how a bicycle ended up dangling from the capital’s iconic statue.

Travellers stuck after dozy train driver forgets Freiburg
Photo: DPA

It's one thing to miss a train - it's another when the train misses you.

Berlin airport employee admits taking €150,000 bribe
Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Photo: DPA

The German capital's long-delayed international airport has been haunted by claims of corruption and incompetency.

Teachers' union: school burqa bans only isolate girls more
Women wearing niqabs. Photo: DPA.

A German trade union for teachers has warned of the consequences of banning certain religious attire in schools after a teen this week was told she could not wear a face veil to school.

Bundesliga
Bayern ban big bags and bottles for Bundesliga opener
Photo: DPA

Bayern Munich have tightened security measures at their stadium, banning spectators from carrying big bags and bottles, ahead of Friday's home match - the first of the new German league season.

Drugstore chain DM starts selling pepper spray
Photo: DPA

One of Germany's largest drug stores has started selling pepper spray due to "increased requests" from customers.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
What's on in Germany: events for August 2016
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
8,582
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd