Monday, September 25, 2017

The Rise of the Far Right in Germany

Although Angela Merkel retained her Chancellorship in yesterday's German election, the far right (Alternative fuer Deutschland-AfD) party won a remarkable 12.6% of the vote.  According to the preliminary results, the AfD's expected 88 seats in the Bundestag outpace the number of seats won by the other non-dominant parties: FDP (80), Left (69), and the Greens (67).  The party brought 690,000 voters to the polls who had not voted in 2013. 

Unsurprisingly, the AfD did well in the states that formed party of the former East Germany securing 20.5% of the vote in the East and only 10.7% in the West. Early reports cite voters concerns about the benefits that immigrants are drawing while some Germans, most notably those in the eastern states, suffer from high unemployment, small pensions, as well as drug and alcohol problems. Still it would be a mistake to define the party as comprised only of individuals who are doing less well economically. In fact, 39% of party members earn a higher than average income.

It is not a given that the party's rise in support will cause Merkel to dramatically shift the government's current policies. The party's leadership is not cohesive. In fact, one of the party's leaders, Frauke Petry, who lobbied the party to adopt a pragmatic political approach announced today that she would not represent the party in the Bundestag. In addition, when Merkel was asked whether the increase in the AfD's strength would affect Germany's foreign, European, and refugee parties, she replied in the negative. The bigger concern is whether the dissatisfaction with the country's immigration policies will affect the treatment of immigrants on the streets.

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