|Far-Right-Wing Conservatism in Germany
Daily: Daily Times
Germany has finally abandoned all efforts to be on the left of the center of the political
spectrum. Since 2005, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany has been ruled by
centre-right parties, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party Christian Social
Union (CSU). This year, in the general elections held on September 24, a far-right political
party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), has secured requisite votes (more than 5%) to qualify
for entering German Parliament, Bundestag.
In the current election, CDU-CSU shed 9% of its vote and garnered 33% of the vote,
compared to 42% of the vote in the 2013 elections. Its competitor Social Democratic Party
of Germany (SPD), which is a centre-left party and led by Martin Schulz who took over the
SPD in March this year, shed 6% of its vote and secured just 20% of the vote, compared to
26% of the vote in the 2013 elections. In this way, this time both CDU-CSU and SPD have
underperformed since 1949. However, two parties have grown in this election. First, the
AfD, which has secured about 12% of the vote, compared to about 4% of the vote in the
2013 elections. Second, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), which has secured about 10%
of the vote, compared to about 4% in the 2013 elections. Out of these two entrants, the
more focus is on the AfD which will be making first ever representation in Bundestag.
Whereas the FDP is the party of centre-right, the AfD is a far-right party representing right-
wing populism. The other two political parties, which are entering Bundestag, are the Left
and the Greens, each securing about 9% of the vote.
Expectedly, this time the CDU-CSU will make a coalition with the FDP and the Greens to
embody black-yellow-green Jamaica coalition, whereas the SPD will sit on the opposition
benches. The AfD will also sit in the opposition as the third largest party. In the 2013
elections, the CDU-CSU made a coalition with its archrival SPD. However, the coalition led
to offering a conceding position to the dyad and consequently both suffered electorally in
2017. Nevertheless, of all these six parties, the position of the AfD is unique. It is not only a
new entrant but it is also the first far-right party to have won elections to enter Bundestag
since the end of the Second World War. This point brings one to the question, what this
means for Germany.
On the September-24 evening, after the announcement of electoral results, while being
interviewed by Hala Gorani of CNN, Georg Pazderski, a local leader of AfD in Berlin, stated
that Islam did not belong in Germany because Islam did not treat men and women equal
and that this point was against the German norms and values. However, this justification
defied the developments leading to AfD’s electoral success.
This time the general focus of political parties’ electoral campaigns was immigration,
relations with the European Union (EU), taxes, social security, jobs and environment.
However, at the heart of all these topics was the ideology of nativity (or nativism)
encompassing both immigration and relations with the EU. The rise of the AfD is not
because of offering any preferable economic agenda or the religion of Islam but on account
of animosity against non-Germans of all types called auslanders.
After the era of the centre-left SPD under the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder
(from 1998 to 2005) was over, Germany started drifting towards right-wing conservatism
and, in 2017, the German system has finally recognized the legitimacy of far-right wing
conservatism. One of the major repercussions is that attacks against foreigners will
increase quantitatively and another is that more such parties will emerge to grab a chance
of an electoral win.
The rise of the AfD is not a sudden phenomenon but it is a spillover effect of Angela Merkel’
s strategy of doing politics. After Schroder’s SPD won general elections in 1998, he
introduced economic reforms to open society to international competition. In 2000,
Schroder introduced a high skilled immigration policy and that initiated the undoing of his
government. When foreigner high skilled workers were landing in Germany, Merkel got
elected as the head of CDU which had ruled over Germany from 1982 to 1998 under the
slogan, “Deutschland ist kein Einwanderungsland” (Germany is not a land of immigration).
Merkel raised the same slogan against Schroder and rallied rightwing Germans around her.
Merkel disparaged the immigration policy not on the basis of any qualitative deficiency in
high skilled immigrants but on the basis of an anticipated threat to “Deutsche
wettbewerbsfähigkeit” (German competitiveness). Instead of asking Germans to compete
foreign high skilled workers, she fanned hatred against them by mounting the fear that
foreigners would outclass Germans in Germany. Seeing her strategy working, she stooped
further low and promoted other right-wing slogans such as German jobs for Germans,
foreigners are bread snatchers, say ‘no’ to immigration, children instead of Indians, and the
worst of all was the slogan that foreigners are criminals. Consequently, high skilled
immigrants and other foreigners were harassed, insulted, and intimidated both at their
workplaces and on the streets, just to force them leave the country. By 2004, almost all fled
Germany. In 2005, the right-wing surge steered by Merkel not only routed Schroder’s SPD
but also emboldened other rightwing parties to think along similar lines. Resultantly, in April
2013, from within the ranks of the CDU, Bernd Lucke sacrificed his 33-year long allegiance
to the party with thousands of defectors and founded a Eurosceptic, anti-immigration, ultra-
right-wing party, the AfD.
Just like Merkel who took four years (from 2000 to 2005) to make her party CDU win the
general election and enter Bundestag, Lucke’s party (the AfD) has also taken four years
(from 2013 to 2017) to enter Bundestag. With that, the trend of expressing more and more
right wing conservatism and wooing German voters continues unabated. Another far-right
party, National Democratic Party (NPD), may revive itself to court German voters and enter
Bundestag next time.
Back to columns in 2017