Is the German government taking the rise of the far right seriously enough?

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According to Euronews’s latest Superpoll in April, Germany’s far-right party AfD are polling in second place for the European elections next month. Is the current government doing enough to counteract the threat from the far-right?

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Political violence is on the rise in Germany, and news that politicians from the Green party and Social Democrats (SPD) were attacked whilst putting up voting posters on Friday in Dresden has shocked the nation.

Many, including the leaders of the SPD in Saxony, Kathrin Michel and Henning Homann, blamed the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. AfD denied strongly that it was behind these attacks and said election campaigns should be without violence.

Earlier this year, hundreds of thousands gathered across major cities in Germany to protests against the far-right. Many experts fear that AfD would change the constitution, school curriculum and introduce new laws, at the very minimum.

Those who say they’ll vote for AfD often want a change in politics and complain that all the other established parties including the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and SPD are the same.

Social democrats from Germany and Europe held a democracy congress in Berlin on Saturday, where they promised not to cooperate with far-right parties, in the likely event that coalitions may need to be formed. 

But is the current government doing enough to counteract the threat from the far-right?

Independent non-government organisation Amadeu Antonio Foundation spokesperson Lorenz Blumenthal told Euronews that the government is trying.

“At least they are now acknowledging what threat the far-right poses to democracy and the people living in Germany. But of course, a lot of mistakes were made in the past by not fully acting up on right wing extremism especially concerning the juridical branch. A lot of crimes remained unpunished. And that, of course, leads to a new self-consciousness of the far right, because if people are not punished for their crimes, they can repeat them and they feel in a way empowered.”

Blumenthal also suggests there is problem with image and recommends that politicians take more active steps to be more honest with voters, and admit that mistakes may have been made, “for instance, the corona pandemic, which might have seen a little too much of political restrictions.”

He also says that it would help politicians be taken more seriously by voters if they acknowledge that times are hard in global crises but also celebrate national victories. Many mainstream parties are afraid of being labelled as nationalist, so stray from being proud of achievements.

“But especially for Germany, we haven’t been doing all too bad. Germany even came out of the pandemic surprisingly well. We achieved so much as a country in terms of doing a very credible transformation towards more green energy, towards jobs,” Blumenthal acknowledges, highlighting that the recession didn’t hit Germany as hard as the AfD is portraying: The shift that really needs to happen is also to be proud of these things.”

“If we break it down,” Blumenthal adds, “the AfD is fear mongering in the best sense. They portray this apocalyptic scenario that migration will ruin Germany, that the support for Ukraine and for Israel will ruin Germany. It’s always just basically picking up votes by fearmongering.”

This tactic can be seen across populist parties in Europe: “If we go back to point X, Y, Z in time, which, for the AfD, is like the 50s, then everything will be fine. And it’s just this very nostalgic backward vision for, for Germany that I, at least, don’t want to live in,” Blumenthal says.



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