World News Editor
The German political party Alternative for Germany (AfD) is the first far-right party to gain status since the Nazi party in 1933. While the party has been active for around a decade, it has never been able to make a name for itself. However, this past summer, the party achieved its first electoral wins in Eastern Germany, where it has the most extensive support, including winning a mayoral seat in Raguhn-Jessnitz and a district administrator’s post in Sonneberg. This marks a significant milestone for the party as it is nationally polling at around 20%.
Despite their election wins taking place at the local level, and not the national, they are polling as the second-largest party in Germany at the time of writing. Touting themselves as populists, many citizens agree with their policies. AfD spokesperson Tino Chrupalla said, “The new normal: We are a people’s party. Step by step, we’re bringing about a change for the better and implementing our policies for the interests of the citizens.”
The location of their wins comes as very little surprise given the politics of Eastern Germany — Eastern Germany has historically voted differently than Western Germany due to several factors. One major factor is immigration, which the AfD vehemently opposes. They want a closed-door policy and share much of Eastern Germany’s xenophobic views. Following the influx of both Syrian and Ukrainian refugees, citizens across Germany see immigration to be a problem facing the country, something that AfD is willing to quickly and boldly address. The party is also taking advantage of infighting within the current coalition led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The AfD pinpoints high inflation and the current coalition’s green policies as negatives for the typical citizen, again labeling themselves as a populist party willing to fight for the people’s interest.
Despite gaining popularity, those in the German parliament say they will refuse to cooperate with the AfD if the party gains seats in parliament. The AfD is heavily associated with right-wing extremists, and Germany’s domestic intelligence service has even accused the party of being a threat to democracy. This means the intelligence agency can tap and view all AfD communications and use undercover agents to spy on their initiatives.
While the AfD’s rise to power is frightening when considering Germany’s history with far-right parties, Germany is not alone in seeing a political shift. Countries across Europe, like Italy, Finland, Spain, and Austria, have seen far-right parties gain power. It is a situation to be alert for throughout the next few years and the subsequent German elections, as it could be the first time in 75 years that a far-right party holds seats in the German parliament.