Germany the extreme right under tension

Germany: the extreme right under tension

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While preparing for the upcoming elections in 2019, the AfD party is experiencing its first difficulties.

In a deleterious climate, nearly 600 delegates of the main far-right party in Germany, Alternative for Germany (AfD), will meet in Riesa, a small town in Saxony, this Friday, January 11 and for four days. In principle, the meeting aims to prepare the campaign for the European elections next May. However, participants may have a mind elsewhere. Because the pressure is rising, these days, against the AfD. And she hurts.

For a month, nearly a dozen attacks against AfD offices have been identified by the police. Other attacks are more personal. On 7 January, Frank Magnitz, a 66-year-old national deputy and party leader in Bremen, was beaten and seriously wounded by three individuals. All German politicians, starting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Franck-Walter Steinmeier, strongly condemned the aggression. In all these cases, which do not seem related, the local police suspect political motivation.

“AfD, goodbye!”
Hundreds of anti-fascist protesters are expected on the sidelines of the Riesa meeting, at the call of several associations and youth sections of the SPD, Greens and die Linke, not to mention the powerful IG Metall union. Their slogan: “AfD, goodbye!” The Dresden police force, the capital of the former German Democratic Republic, was mobilized.

At a first convention in November in Magdeburg (Saxony-Anhalt), participants failed to nominate candidates for the European ballot: only 12 of the 40 colistiers were nominated, due to an election process time-consuming. In Riesa, delegates must also endorse the party’s program for these elections. Not surprisingly, they should focus on immigration and insecurity.

Originally created against the euro, the AfD has turned in recent years into an Islamophobic and xenophobic movement. At the Magdeburg congress, a Hamburg official, Krzysztof Walczak, declared with thunderous applause: “I will not accept that the high culture [of Germany] is sacrificed on the altar of multiculturalism”. The Chancellor’s migration policy, which had authorized and facilitated the reception of nearly 1.2 million migrants in 2015 and 2016, was denounced, as was the United Nations pact on migration.

In Riesa, supporters of an exit from Germany from the European Union should also try to convince the party to make a campaign argument: “Since the European construction, we pay more than we receive, estimates a local leader, and we have to settle the debts of other countries, like Greece. ”

Divergences between eurosceptic parties

In 2014, one year after its creation, the AfD won 7% of the vote. This year, the nationalist party – which has since entered the Bundestag and the 16 German regional parliaments – is expected to progress, as do many similar movements in Europe – even though, in one study, the Jacques Institute Delors does not plan a tidal wave. The AfD hopes to reach 20% of the vote and send more than 15 elected representatives to Brussels and Strasbourg. Current opinion polls give it around 15% of the vote, almost as much as the Social Democrats of the SPD. The Greens oscillate between 17 and 20% and Merkel’s CDU between 27 and 30%.

In which group would the future AfD elected? Discussions are ongoing. “Our European leader [Jörg Meuthen] is trying to form an alliance with most Eurosceptic conservative parties in Europe before the May elections,” says an elected AfD of Saxony, “but it’s not easy. We have some points in common, notably our conceptions of sovereignty, with the French National Rally [RN, former FN], the Flemish Vlaams Belang or the Swedish Democrats, but our approaches differ on social issues. ”

In the current Parliament, where they represent 20% of the elected, eurosceptic and nationalist are divided into three groups: the European Conservatives and Reformists, the Europe Group of Freedom and Direct Democracy and finally the Europe Group of Nations and freedoms. These fractures also affect the AfD: six MEPs out of the seven elected in 2014 are today in these three groups. And only one has retained the party’s label!

Suspicion of illegal financing

The European elections will be a test of the party’s ability to overcome its initial difficulties. The AfD is going through a bad patch lately. One of her leaders, the highly-rated Alice Weidel, is suspected by the court of having received a disputed donation of 130 000 euros from a Swiss industrialist – while the German law forbids it. After denying, the face of the AfD has admitted “errors” and announced his departure from Switzerland, where she resides. The prosecution asked the Bundestag to lift its parliamentary immunity.

On the political front, the party must also renew its speech. While he continues to chant “Merkel must leave”, the Chancellor announced that her fourth term would be the last. In December, she left the presidency of the CDU for the benefit of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

For the AfD, the real challenge of this election year is yet to come. The lessons of the May ballot will set the tone for the regional elections in September in the three eastern Länder, Thuringia, Brandenburg and, above all, Saxony, where the far right achieves its best scores.

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