THE RISE OF FAR-RIGHT IN GERMANY AND GERMAN AfD PARTY

Unification of East and West Germany, the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and globalization have completely changed the systems of international relations. All these changes in the world and especially in Europe have led to radical changes in Europe’s political paradigms. In this process, although today’s Europe has a democratic and liberal order, extremism, xenophobia, racism, anti-immigration, anti-Islamism, etc. It has faced many problems and difficulties. These problems led to the strengthening of far-right and populist-right parties across Europe.

Far right descriptions; Fascism, neo-fascist, the neo-Nazi, radical right, populism, populist right, racist and xenophobia are tried to be created by making inferences from the distinctions. Definitions differ according to the reflections of the far right perceptions in the country from the past. “The far right is a movement that follows a policy against social justice, blocks the integration of ethnic minorities into society, is based on xenophobia, anti-Semitism and racism, and includes all large and small socio-political parties and institutions” (Taş, 1999, 76). The rise of the far right began to emerge after the 1930s for the first time towards the end of the 1980s, while the first serious signs of the far right’s political electoral movements in Europe began to appear in the 1990s (Allen, 2017). The European Parliament elections in 2004 also witnessed the continuation of this increase.

The dates when the far right first appeared in Germany in the 1920s. During this period, Germany was considerably weakened economically due to the Versailles treaty made after the war. The Versailles Agreement limited Germany’s development and put a heavy burden on the economy. During this period, the country was in a difficult period both socially, economically and politically. Financial and commercial crises; the shaking economy had a devastating effect for Weimar democracy. With the coming to power of Adolf Hitler and the national socialist movement in 1933, a new era began in Germany. A German ideal that Hitler aimed to create, a society homogenized in race, a force that enjoys crushing enemies and refuses to cooperate; it was a Germany dominated by the ideology of struggle and hatred.

Treaty of Versailles, VCG Wilson/Corbis/Getty Images

After the defeat and occupation of Germany in World War II, Nazi Germany was buried in history. The victorious States of the war have prepared a constitution so that the far right will never again strengthen in Germany. In 1949, according to the Constitution of West Germany (Grundgesetz), which came into force under the influence of the United States, all anti-democratic parties and organizations were banned. The far right has never been able to reach the size of a mass movement again. However, the strengthening of this trend again after the unification of the two Germany shows that the roots of this trend in society have not disappeared.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, East Germany emerged from the ideological sphere of influence of the communist regime. Thus, Germany’s policies have changed. The main reasons for this change are immigrants.

The Arab Spring in the Middle East and the increasing mass migration in Europe have mainly affected Germany, which stands out as the economic power of the European Union. (Aras and Saçıroğlu, 2018). With the industrialization of Europe, there was no need for migrant workers and saw immigrants as a burden on the economy. As a result, far right parties have increased their power. Germany is a country that opposes Nazism and refuses to see far-right actions, while it is suddenly shaken by radical right-wing violence. While Germany was a country that opposed Nazism and refused to see far right actions, it was suddenly shaken by radical right-wing violence.

In this context, the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD / Alternative für Deutschland) has approached the issue of immigration and immigration as it approached the refugee problem since its establishment as a political party. In this framework, for the AfD, which is basically positioned on the right-wing ideology, which is shown as right-wing populist or, in some cases, far-right, the issue of immigration and immigration has been evaluated in the axis of opposition. The Alternative for Germany party (AfD), which appears to be the solution to these problems, received huge support from voters in the 2013, 2017 and 2019 elections. This led to a far-right party becoming the third party in Germany for the first time since the Second World War.

The AfD, in September 2012, when a group of CDU members, including Konrad Adam (b. 1942), Alexander Gauland (b. 1941) and Bernd Lucke (b. 1962), formed a political action group called “Wahlalternative-Election Alternative 2013”. started his political life. (Berbuir, Lewandowsky & Siri, 2015, pp. 154-155). The 2009 Euro crisis, the European Union‘s (EU) intervention in German domestic politics, the increase in the number of asylum seekers and terrorist attacks increased the AfD votes.

Considering the rate of votes it obtained in the elections that it participated as a party established in 2013, it is seen that it has grown steadily and is also rapidly organized in the regions (Berbuir, Lewandowsky, & Siri, 2015, pp. 154-155). When the party was founded in 2013, it supported opposition policies to save EU countries affected by the euro crisis. However, in the following period, as a result of the refugee crisis, it started to develop discourses against immigrants / asylum seekers and Islam.

The AfD was established in 2013 as an anti-Euro party with claims that it did not match the interests of Germany and harmed Germany, and in time began to completely oppose EU integration. The AfD, whose demands have become increasingly xenophobic, entered parliament with 94 seats. This situation has become unsettling both for German domestic politics and for the EU, where supranational politics is carried out.

There has been a general concern in Germany that as the populist radical right actors, especially the Alternative for Germany Party (Alternative für Deutschland – AfD) and far-right groups gain power, the democracy in the country will be endangered. According to a survey conducted in Germany in December 2019, 53% of the German people stated that they believed the strengthening of the AfD endangered German democracy (DW: September 2019). Chancellor Angela Merkel accused the AfD of paralyzing democracy after Thomas Kemmerich, a candidate for the Free Democratic Party (Freie Demokratische Partei, FDP), was elected Thuringian prime minister in the Thuringia state elections in January 2020 (The Local: February 2020).

As a result, the changes and developments in the global arena have a great impact on the domestic and foreign political structures of the countries. Especially with the increasing globalization, the political, social and economic structuring developed by the states and the power of the state policies are gaining more importance every day. In this context, the place of far-right parties and movements in European politics is increasing. At this point, actions and situations that threaten democracy and liberal order especially in European countries emerge.

The rise of the far right started to surface for the first time after the 1930s towards the end of the 1980s. This situation made Germany an important point in the far right after World War II. With the Arab Spring in the Middle East, mass migration to Europe has increased, and Germany, which stands out as a major economic power, has been greatly affected by this migration. Against this background, The Alternative Party for Germany (AfD/ Alternative für Deutschland) has also channeled politics on immigration and immigration as a party that has been on the rise since its establishment as a political party. The AfD’s goal is to protect German Christian culture by reducing the number of migrants and refugees in its country. The AfD tends to reject pluralism and disregard the fundamental rights and freedoms of minorities. In addition, mainstream parties accuse the AfD of supporting attacks on refugees by far-right groups in Germany.

The important aspect in this whole process is that the AfD is a phenomenon that arose in the economic crisis and the wave of migration. The success of the AfD is thought-provoking when we take into account that the increase in the votes of the AfD occurs when the immigrants’ problem is at its peak. In light of all these determinations, it is possible to conclude that the AfD is a potential danger to German democracy.

Prepared by Tuba Yıldırım for The FEAS Journal.


References

“‘Cripple democracy’: How the far-right is out to shatter German politics,` The Local, 12 February 2020, https://www.thelocal.de/20200212/destructive-farright-out-to-shatter-german-politics 

“2019 European Election Results,” European Parliament, 2019, https://election-results.eu/national-results/germany/2019-2024/ 

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