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    Germany’s Populist Right Wing AfD Keeps Surging In The Polls - “This Cannot Be Tolerated”

    July 26, 2023
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    What is behind the rise of Germany’s AfD and is it dangerous?

    Germany’s right wing populist party AfD has surged to 22% in the recent polls - which would make it the 2nd strongest party in Germany, after Germany’s (not so) conservative CDU (26%). If one considers that that CDU’s federal poll numbers include the share of its smaller Bavarian sister party CSU, then the AfD has for now become the strongest party in the polls.

    This has led the former Israeli ambassador to Germany, Shimon Stein, to comment to a German media outlet “that the current development cannot be tolerated”.

    How dangerous then is the German AfD and what explains its current rise?

    Background – AfD’s first phase from its founding 2013 to Merkel throwing open the border 2015

    The AfD was first founded in 2013 as a EU/Euro-sceptic party during the time of Greece’s looming bankruptcy and the various attempts to save the Euro. At the time it came across as professorial (the economists Jörg Meuthen and Bernd Lucke were founding members). During the 2013 federal election it scored 4.7% of the vote – respectable for any new party - but still remained under the 5% threshold necessary for obtaining representation in the German parliament, the Bundestag.

    “I created a monster”

    This changed after Merkel threw open the German borders in September 2015. Since 2015 AfD polling jumped from “fringe” single to double-digits. Something else had changed – the party shifted from a nerdy professorial party to a more populist, nationalist party. Professor Bernd Lucke and another prominent founding members left the party in 2015 – one of them dramatically exclaimed “I helped to create a monster”.

    However, since 2015 the party also entered a turbulent phase where it seemed to be most occupied with internal power struggles and finding itself ideologically. This did not particularly help its cause of selling itself as a serious party, especially since the mainstream media started writing hit pieces about AfD radicalization and warned of its dangers. The AfD further did not create the best sales pitch by some of its supporters becoming vocal Russia and China fanboys.

    As Germany woke up 2016 to the mass sexual assault on German women during the New Year’s celebrations by asylum seekers in Cologne and terror attacks started happening, the AfD continued to grow. The political and media mainstream reacted swiftly and warnings about the AfD’s radicalization started pouring in (once more, the AfD did not excel at dispelling these allegations by ill-conceived utterances of some of its members).

    It was an interesting time - the media and political mainstream seemed to be more outraged by how the AfD could politically profit from the mass sexual assault and terrorism than by the plight of the victims of such attacks.

    Ironically, as warnings of AfD’s radicalism abounded - AfD politicians started being physically attacked by Antifa and similar left wing radicals.

    Meanwhile, migrant riots, terror attacks and sexual assault were blanketed by the media with new misleading and euphemistic speech codes: suddenly we heard about “isolated mental health related stabbings”, “groups of young men” rioting, “the party and event scene” battling with the police in the streets. Often one would not find mention of small incidents or the background of the perpetrators beyond the realm of small local newspapers.

    In spite of this constant media assault and carefully drip-fed uncomfortable information, the AfD proceeded to win 12.6% in the 2017 federal elections.

    The phase of AfD stagnation – the one-trick-pony

    However, following the 2017 election the AfD seemed to plateau – whilst it remained represented in virtually all state parliaments – and continued to grow in the East of Germany, during the next federal election in 2021 its share of the vote dropped to 10.3%.

    There certainly was no shortage of “red meat” topics for a populist right wing party – Germany kept propping up the rest of the Eurozone at the detriment of its own taxpayers (both through direct transfers and currency instruments such as the Target2 system), migrants kept pouring into the country in their hundreds-of-thousands, knife crime in trains had doubled, gang-rape had become a sad new reality of crime statistics, taxes were at a record level – so why then did the AfD not profit during 2017 until the end of 2022?

    3 reasons:

    For most of the phase between 2015 until even after the Federal Election 2021 the AfD remained a one-trick-pony: migration remained its main talking point. While migration remained high, migrant crime proved to be higher relative to migrant share of the population – the population simply grew numb to the news and the media got better at not drawing attention to inconvenient truths (the mentioned euphemistic speech codes seemed to work, Covid dominated headlines)

    The AfD kept itself busy with internal quarrels, especially trying to oust / limit the range of its more nationalist wing (“Der Flügel” the Wing)

    Most importantly, the German economy kept going strong – even with the disastrous energy policy, cheap Russian gas kept powering Germany’s crucial industries. So, if there was any decline, it was too slow for ordinary middle-clast folks to notice.

    And then Ukraine happened…

    Suddenly, in 2022 the war in Ukraine changed everything. Prior to that, the German political establishment had grown quite fond of criticising Russia, whilst at the same time growing more and more dependent on cheap Russian gas.

    The Ukraine war changed all of that.

    The Western allies, especially the US, applied considerable pressure to limit importing Russian gas. For good measure, the Nord Stream pipelines were blown up, no easy return to cheap Russian gas – message received.

    My interpretation of the Who-Dunnit tends to align with Simour Hersh’s interpretation – I find his reasoning regarding motive and means convincing until someone presents me with a better theory than ragtag Ukrainian saboteurs on sailing boats.

    Consequently, Germany had to purchase much more expensive liquified gas from the UAE and the US. In 2023 the German industry paid gas prices that were 40% higher than they were before the war.

    Now everyone in Germany felt the pinch in their wallet. Already pinched, people started noticing all the other questionable programs that the new Green-Social-Democrat –Liberal coalition government had dreamed up (to be fair, most such policies had already been started long ago under Merkel’s “conservative” government) – the highly subsidized “green” and energetically ineffectual energy projects, the very expensive insulation and new heating regulations that were foisted on many private people, the (EU) crackdown on internal combustion engines in a country where car production / car parts make up 16% of the GDP, the many businesses from traditional factories to bakeries that went out of business.

    Already critically looking around, people started noticing immigration again and the related costs – 27 billion Euros direct costs 2023 (that is almost as much as what the Federal Ministry of Traffic and Digital Infrastructure spends on Germany’s declining infrastructure). In 2015 Germany’s elites deluded themselves about the “tremendous opportunity” of letting large numbers of functionally illiterate young men stream across its border. Even Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche spoke of the chance for a new “economic miracle” in 2015. Now even the mainstream media could not explain away the fact 50% of the refugees that came into the country 8 years ago where still unemployed.

    Divided mainstream media fire power

    Also, it should be noted the mainstream media had to divide its firepower – drumming up support for the unpopular war in Ukraine took quite a bit of the media’s attention.

    The New Year 2023 started with massive migrant riots in cities like Berlin where firemen and ambulances were assaulted and robbed.

    Gradually the AfD’s numbers kept creeping up. The government also kept pouring more fuel on the fire – in the middle of an energy price crisis, made worse by the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines– the coalition decided to shut down the last remaining three nuclear power plants.

    It also did not escape most Germans’ attention that BASF, Germany’s chemical giant (that uses as much energy as the whole of Switzerland) was investing 10 billion euros for a new plant in China whilst shutting down a fertilizer plant in Ludwigshafen. The crucial German car supplier Schaeffler also announced establishing more production in the US.

    The death wish or at least poverty wish of German is nowhere as apparent as in their foreign policy – having lost Russia as a trading partner, the coalition seems to feel it is a great idea to antagonize China.

    Mainstream scrambling “Peace party unique selling point” of the AfD

    This might explain why the old scare tactics vis-à-vis the AfD no longer seem to work – predictably a couple of economists warned that a strong AfD might scare away those skilled workers politicians had been talking about since 2015. Other press outlets’ insulting voters á la “It’s the voters fault” are unlikely going to sway anybody’s opinion.

    The state-owned Tagesschau’s lament that the AfD’s “unique selling point as the only pro-peace party” is helping its poll number, appears comical. It also forgets that the Green party in its infancy cut its teeth by being the foremost antimilitarist peace party in the 1980s.

    This shows that the AfD is no longer a one-trick-pony – add to its talking points the issue of free speech. Germany has introduced free speech limiting legislation that outsources censorship to likes of Facebook. Similarly, the EU will roll out a very worrisome piece of censorship regulation, known as the Digital Services Act. Since the once classical liberal / libertarian FDP has abandoned its role as the erstwhile free speech champion, the AfD has taken up this role.

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    How radical is the AfD? What does its platform say?
    The consideration above brings us to our final point – is Shimon Stein correct to worry about the rise of AfD?

    If one consults the AfD’s general party platform or the electoral platform from 2021– there is nothing there that one would not have found in a CDU party platform from not so long ago.

    The platform speaks of fundamental rights such as free speech, makes the case for direct democracy á la Switzerland, free market economy counterbalanced by some welfare state (Germany’s famed “social market economy” – Soziale Marktwirtschaft), a smaller state, limiting power and expenditure of political parties, limiting lobbyism, protecting media whistleblowers, rolling the EU back from a supranational state to an alliance of sovereign states. That is hardly authoritarian or even “fascist” as it is frequently alleged.

    A wolf in sheep’s clothing?
    One could make the argument that the AfD could simply be lying – that it really is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    However, against that speaks the fact that in history truly radical parties neither were capable nor willing to hide their true platform. Hitler disclosed his crazed true intentions in Mein Kampf long before the Nazis ever ceased power.

    The dangers of supressing the AfD
    Whilst I sympathize with Mr. Stein’s worries, I am concerned that declaring a party off limits, does more harm than good. Clearly, the AfD’s success is based on it taking up topics that no other party is willing to address – or has abandoned. Making these issues verboten would deprive democracy of a critical pressure valve and can lead to far more radical political currents taking AfD’s place.

    My concern is more with the quality of the AfD politicians – can they transition from being a firebrand opposition party to govern competently? Maybe getting them involved in some sort of coalition at the local (as just proposed by the CDU’s leader Friedrich Merz) or state level might be the best thing that could happen to the other mainstream parties.

    Possibly, the mainstream parties could rediscover those topics that once were their own brand’s preserve: Green = anti-war, SPD = voicing working-class concerns, FDP = free speech, CDU = law and order.

    Until they do, they lose the right to whine about the AfD ‘monopolizing’ those issues.



    Christian Geib

    Christian studied law in Germany, the Netherlands and the US (LL.M. Stanford). He has worked in retail, hospitality, translation, government (such as the European Commission), IT and is currently working as an IT/business consultant. He is a reserve officer of the German Armed Forces. He is particularly interested in the architecture of political systems and international regimes, recruitment and education of elites, how narratives shape political reality and everything related to currencies.
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    Now the German people are awakening to the destructive policies of the left in regards to immigration, economy, ecology, law enforcement, and the establishment of a global government.


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