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Victory of populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) threatens established order

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The only phrase that could accurately describe the latest German election is “half a victory.” Last Sunday, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party only got 33% of the votes. The rise of nationalism in Europe and around the world was mirrored by the results of the election where the Eurosceptic far right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD) won 13% of the votes. While this number seems low, it means that 94 of the 630 members in one of the houses of Parliament will be xenophobic, German nationalists. It also means that AFD is now the third largest political party in the German government.

Co-founder of the AfD, Alexander Gauland, made a claim in September explaining that Germans “have the right to be proud of the achievements of the German soldiers in two world wars. … People no longer need to reproach us with these 12 years. They don’t relate to our identity nowadays.” From 1933 to 1945 Nazis ruled over Germany and killed over six million Jews. Where does this rise in extremes come from in Germany?

The reasons for this election’s outcome are diverse and historic. Until the fall of the Berlin wall, East Germany was very closed off to the rest of the world. When immigrants and refugees came into that region it was perceived as an invasion. The rise of nationalism and a strong identity sentiment in some parts of Germany resulted in strong islamophobia. This is seen largely through the ideology of AfD supporters and many executives who use Nazi vocabulary while also challenging the German repentance efforts to mourn their past to win over voters. Nevertheless, most AfD voters, 60% to be exact, voted against other parties and not for AfD.  

It is now the role of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, the Green party and CDU/CSU to form a coalition that is successful for the people in order to prevent another rise of the AfD political party. It is the equivalent in the U.S. of the right, left and Green party trying to work together: not an easy challenge. Moreover, this government has a capital importance regarding multiple burning issues such as euro reformations, transatlantic relations and sanctions regarding Russia.

It is crucial for the future of Germany and Europe to put aside these differences.

AfD’s political party can be compared to the National Front (FN) in France which made it to the second presidential round in the 2017 elections, and to the Austrian FPÖ political party, which also made it to the second round of presidential elections in 2016 with Norbert Hofer.

These extremist parties have experienced a growing success across Europe with their Eurosceptic policies and climate change denial. It is saddening to see that these extremist views have not only affected Europe but have also affected Turkey, England and the United States with the election of Trump last year.

These different societies seem to have forgotten what history has taught us about falling into extremes and the consequences that specific path can have.

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Victory of populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) threatens established order