Stuttgart despatch | International

Life after the rise of German far-Right

Faces of members of the AFD (Alternative For Germany) Party are seen among other characters from popular culture on tin cans, as part of a carnival game in one of the booths at an SPD (Social Democratic Party) event that was held in Herman Ehlers Platz in Berlin’s Steglitz district, on September 13,2017.

Faces of members of the AFD (Alternative For Germany) Party are seen among other characters from popular culture on tin cans, as part of a carnival game in one of the booths at an SPD (Social Democratic Party) event that was held in Herman Ehlers Platz in Berlin’s Steglitz district, on September 13,2017.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

The outcome of the German elections for Bundestag did not spring a surprise for many. As expected, Angela Merkel secured a fourth term as Chancellor. However, the entry of the far-right Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) in Parliament as the third-largest party has come as a caesura in the country’s post-Second World War history.

Though there have been individual politicians with a Nazi past, this is the first time a party with a neo-Nazi ideology has entered Parliament. The AfD and its outlook — racist, neo-liberal and Islamophobic — are now bound to be considered mainstream.

How did this happen? The only answer politicians — both on the Left and the Right — are able to come up with is: blame it on the refugees. On Wednesday, Oskar Lafontaine, a leading figure of the left-wing Die Linke, attacked his own party’s leadership and called its stance on the “refugee crisis” wrong.

Not all Die Linke members supported its pro-refugee stance during the election campaign. Sahra Wagenknecht, another leading politician and Mr. Lafontaine's wife, said that refugees who “abuse” their right to hospitality would forfeit it. However, most members of her party disagreed, pointing out that refugees had basic human rights which could not be denied to them.

“I think it’s important to focus on how other parties in Germany will change after the success of the AfD. In Austria, established parties adopted many stances and slogans of the right-wing FPÖ [the Freedom Party of Austria] after it made huge gains,” said Farid Hafez, an Austrian political scientist currently at Georgetown University, U.S. Mr. Hafez, who has studied the performance of right-wing parties for years, added that the AfD’s success was foreseeable, “as we have seen with other right-wing parties all over Europe during the last years”.

Nevertheless, while everyone is talking about the political shift to the Right, no one seems to be thinking about the people the shift will affect the most. “There has already been a lot of racism in German society. I believe that after the AfD’s success, this will increase, especially in terms of Islamophobia and anti-refugee hate crimes,” Emine Aslan, an author and anti-racist activist from Frankfurt, told this writer. “I think that we can compare the situation with the one in the United States, where a lot of right-wing extremists felt encouraged to commit hate crimes after the election of Donald Trump.”

Lack of empathy

Many Germans with a migrant background are worried about the rise of the AfD. “As a person with a Muslim background, I think it’s just normal to be worried. However, in times like this, it’s always sad to witness how people categorise others just on the basis of prejudices,” said Miriam, a Palestinian-German student from Stuttgart. “Generally, I noticed that many Germans cannot understand the situation of refugees who suffered under war and chaos in their home countries,” she said.

The outcome has also shocked Germans without a migrant background. “To me, the success of the AfD is a serious concern. I think it’s surreal and frightening that these anti-Semitic and racist fellows became the third-largest party of our country,” said Marie, a jurist from the city of Cologne.

She also pointed out that there was a greater risk of racism becoming a common feature of German politics. “Right-wing extremism might become a regular issue in Parliament, the same is true of hate speech. These things will become something normal. Such a reality can also dull the minds of average people.”

(Emran Feroz is a freelance journalist based in Stuttgart)

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2020 1:06:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/life-after-the-rise-of-german-far-right/article19777906.ece

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