“We will hunt them. We will hunt Mrs. Merkel or whomever. And we will take back our country and our people.” Phrases like this will be heard probably quite often over the next four years. Alexander Gauland, the leading candidate by the AfD (Alternative for Germany) sent a clear message to the public, after the exit polls had revealed, that his party came in third biggest party in the federal elections. With 12.6 percent of votes, the right-wing party almost tripled its result from 2013 elections (4.6 percent), when they failed to get into parliament. For the first time since World War II, there is a party with great support on the political right side of CDU/CSU – what does this mean for German politics?
Almost six million Germans voted for the AfD. Following elections in France, Hungary, Poland or the Netherlands, a significant number of people decided to vote for a party, that gains attention by its anti-establishment, anti-European and anti-immigration ideas. The numbers suggest there was, and still is, a large part in the population that does not feel represented in today’s political decisions. For instance, the AfD managed to gain 1.4 million votes by former non-voters. Another 420.000 former supporters of the German Left-party gave their vote to the right-wing party – an obvious sign, that not the content was decisive, but it was rather a shout of protest. Numbers from post-election questioning also show, that only 31 percent of AfD voters only voted for this party out of conviction – the lowest number among all parties that made it into the Bundestag. 60 percent indicated their disappointment with the popular parties as reason for their decision – the highest number of all parties, followed by the Left.
Of course, not everybody who voted for the AfD can be looked at as Nazi. But this successful election turnout shows, that apparently many of their voters do not have any problem with candidates, who want Germans to be proud of their soldiers in both World wars, or describe the Holocaust as an “effective instruments for the criminalization of Germans”. The AfD will have 94 representatives in the future German parliament, among those a huge part of politicians with already mentioned ultra-right, anti-Semitic, or revisionist opinions.
Another problem with the AfD is, they do not have proper solutions for today’s problems, they have no real program for tax and pension policy. When Alexander Gauland was asked in a TV talk show on Sunday night how a constructive participation by his party will look like, he answered that this this not their task at the moment. One of the leading AfD politicians, Frauke Petry, decided not to be part of the party’s parliamentary group – a decision, she probably planned long before, also because of the party’s constant shift to the right. Petry also announced that she stands for a party that wants to work constructively for a more conservative Germany, this shows the massive conflicts within the party already one day after the election. Despite all their internal conflicts, with the AfD in the opposition – or in the parliament in general – the debates will turn into a rougher tone! The party and each representative will also receive financial support by the German state, money they can use for future election campaigns, as well as for a variety of employees.
The task for the center parties will be to obtain the trust of those, who voted the AfD out of protest. It is obvious that the tactics by the CSU – to assimilate with their demands and attack Merkel – have not been successful: the right-wing party achieved its best results outside of East Germany in Bavaria. It is now the duty of the popular parties, to work on political problems in a way, that more people in Germany feel represented. Almost 13 percent for the Alternative for Germany also mean, that 87 percent did not for them! So it will be difficult the next four years (maybe even longer), but this is a task a strong democracy can and should be able to handle.