• 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
No injuries after blast near Bavarian migrant centre
A sign at the Zirndorf migrant centre. Photo: DPA

A suitcase, likely packed with aerosol cans, has blown up near a migrant centre on the outskirts of Nuremberg, causing no injuries, police confirm.

Not your average student digs: 'amazing' plastic bubble
Photo: DPA

Could this wacky experiment be the future of student housing?

Police settle train violence over smelly feet
Not the feet in question. Photo: Caitlin Regan/Flickr

A fellow passenger's foot odour proved too much for one traveller to stomach.

How Berliners are responding to the Bavaria attacks
Photo: DPA

Is fear of terrorism creeping up on the capital?

Munich gunman was far-right racist: media reports
Photo: DPA

According to research by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung the Munich gunman was proud to have been born on the same day as Hitler and hated Turks and Arabs.

Ansbach suicide attack
Ansbach bomber ‘influenced’ by third person: officials
Photo: DPA

Officials in Bavaria have said that the man who blew himself up in an apparent Islamist attack on Sunday was influenced by an as yet unknown person.

What is the link between the attacks in Germany last week?
Police on guard in Munich. Photo: DPA

And how likely are 'copycat' attacks?

Rights experts call for calm after string of violent attacks
Bavaria has called for soldiers to protect the German border. Photo: DPA

Human rights groups and legal experts are warning the government to react responsibly to the attacks and rampages which have taken place in Germany in recent days.

France church attacker had been arrested in Germany
Photo: DPA

A neighbour described the man as a "ticking time bomb".

Dutch join hunt for German terrorists-turned-outlaws
From left to right: Ernst-Volker Staub, Daniela Klette and Burkhard Garweg. Photo: DPA.

Dutch police on Tuesday told people to be on the lookout for three German far-left militants, at large for decades and suspected of a string of recent heists.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
DPA
Gallery
IN PICTURES: How Munich responded to shooting spree
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
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
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
10,756
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd