Outrage over Right-Wing Alliance in Thuringia Is Overblown

Thuringia Germany state parliament
The state parliament of Thuringia, Germany debates legislation in Erfurt, June 12, 2019 (Thüringer Landtag)

Politicians in Berlin are up in arms about an alliance between the mainstream right and far-right Alternative for Germany in the central state of Thuringia.

Lars Klingbeil, secretary general of the ruling Social Democrats, spoke of a “low point in Germany’s postwar history.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel called the election of a liberal state premier with far-right support “unforgivable”.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the head of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and presumptive successor, said it was a “bad day for Thuringia and a bad day for Germany.”

Hitler comparisons are rife, coming even from party leaders in Brussels.

This is all a little over the top. Read more “Outrage over Right-Wing Alliance in Thuringia Is Overblown”

Election Reveals Brexit- and Trump-Like Cleavages in Germany

Kaiserslautern Germany protest
Germans demonstrate against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policy in Kaiserslautern, January 30, 2016 (Franz Ferdinand Photography)

Germany’s federal election revealed many of the same cleavages we have seen in America, Britain and France, Alexander Roth and Guntram B. Wolff report for the Bruegel think tank:

  • Urban-rural split: Support for the far-right Alternative for Germany party was low in the cities but high in the countryside.
  • Old versus young: Districts with a higher share of elderly voters were more supportive of the Alternative.
  • Education: There is a strong correlation here. The better educated Germans are, the less likely they were to vote for the Alternative.
  • Income: Higher disposable household income is associated with lower support for the Alternative, however, areas with high unemployment were also less likely to vote for the far right. Read more “Election Reveals Brexit- and Trump-Like Cleavages in Germany”

Comparing German Party Platforms Reveals Two Divides

German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel and Chancellor Angela Merkel deliver a news conference at Schloss Meseberg, north of Berlin, May 24, 2016
German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel and Chancellor Angela Merkel deliver a news conference at Schloss Meseberg, north of Berlin, May 24, 2016 (Bundesregierung)

Comparing the platforms of the six parties competing in the German election reveals two divides:

  1. The first is between the traditional left and right on spending and taxes. The Social Democrats, Greens and far-left Die Linke want higher taxes on the wealthy to fund public investment. The Christian Democrats, liberal Free Democrats and nativist Alternative argue for tax cuts.
  2. The second divide is between the four mainstream parties and the extremes on defense and foreign policy. The Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats all support closer European integration and NATO. The Alternative wants out of the euro. Die Linke would swap NATO for a security pact with Russia.

Here is a closer look at where the parties stand on defense, Europe, immigration, spending and taxes. Read more “Comparing German Party Platforms Reveals Two Divides”

Germany’s Alternative Succumbs to Infighting as Popularity Fades

With five months to go before parliamentary elections, Germany’s nationalist party is imploding.

Frauke Petry, the charismatic leader of the Alternative für Deutschland, has said she will not lead the election campaign in the fall, in effect conceding defeat in a long-running power struggle.

Petry is officially one of two party leaders, but she sought to become its sole candidate for the chancellorship.

Even if the Alternative would have stood little chance of prevailing in September’s election anyway, a role as Spitzenkandidat could have given Petry more influence.

Her opponents argued for a team of leading contenders representing the various tendencies in the party. Read more “Germany’s Alternative Succumbs to Infighting as Popularity Fades”

German Euroskeptics Asked to Leave British-Led Group

Two members of the Alternative für Deutschland party have been asked to leave the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament.

A spokesman for the bloc said Beatrix von Storch and Marcus Pretzell, the German party’s two remaining members in the Strasbourg-based legislature, would be given a month to resign.

Von Storch alleged a deal between British and German leaders David Cameron and Angela Merkel. The former’s Conservative Party is the largest in the ECR; the latter is contesting state elections this weekend in which the Alternative is expected to do well. How such a conspiracy would help Merkel’s Christian Democrats, Von Storch did not say, though.

The more likely reason for her dismissal and Pretzell’s was a suggestion from Von Storch’s party leader, Frauke Petry, that German police should be allowed to shoot migrants who try to enter Germany illegally. Read more “German Euroskeptics Asked to Leave British-Led Group”

While Merkel Dithers, Far Right Grows in Germany

German party leaders Sigmar Gabriel and Angela Merkel walk to a news conference in Berlin, June 29, 2015
German party leaders Sigmar Gabriel and Angela Merkel walk to a news conference in Berlin, June 29, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

The anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland party placed third in municipal elections in Hesse on Sunday in what the mainstream parties fear could be a harbinger for state elections this week.

The far right took 13 percent of the votes in Hesse, pushing the Greens into fourth place.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats went down from 34 to 28 percent support. The Social Democrats, who rule in coalition with Merkel’s conservatives nationally, dropped from 31 to 28 percent. Read more “While Merkel Dithers, Far Right Grows in Germany”

Former German Euroskeptic Leader Starts New Party

Bernd Lucke, the former leader of the Alternative für Deutschland, started a new Euroskeptic party this weekend, splitting a movement that could otherwise have posed a threat to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

The new party, called Alliance for Progress and Renewal, reflects Lucke’s liberal economic policy and his focus on taking Germany out of the euro.

The economics professor resigned earlier this month from the party he founded in 2013 after losing a leadership election to the more right-wing Frauke Petry. She represents a conservative, nationalist platform and wants to challenge the ruling Christian Democrats from the right.

Many of the Alternative‘s members of the European Parliament resigned together with Lucke and are expected to join his new party. Read more “Former German Euroskeptic Leader Starts New Party”

Right-Wing Politics Divide German Euroskeptics

Behind a personal power struggle in Germany’s Euroskeptic party lurks the bigger question of what sort of a party it wants to be.

The conflict burst into the open this weekend when a group of deputy leaders attacked founder Bernd Lucke for his “despot-like style of leadership.” They specifically criticized his attempt to take sole control of the party.

Lucke, an economist, helped establish the Alternative für Deutschland in 2013. The name was chosen in reference to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s insistence that there was “no alternative” to bailing out Greece and other countries in the periphery of the eurozone if Germany wanted to keep the single currency. Read more “Right-Wing Politics Divide German Euroskeptics”

German Right Underestimates Alternative Challenge

Angela Merkel Wolfgang Schäuble Sigmar Gabriel
German chancellor Angela Merkel confers with her finance and economy ministers, Wolfgang Schäuble and Sigmar Gabriel, January 23 (Bundesregierung)

Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats seem to underestimate the political challenge the Euroskeptic Alternative für Deutschland party poses to them. This is not a fringe movement, as many in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party would like to believe. Rather, the Alternative threatens their monopoly on the political right.

Merkel’s hawkish finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble — whose hardline positions on the euro are really closer to the Alternative‘s than those of ardent European federalists — said the Euroskeptic party was a “disgrace for Germany” on Thursday. Merkel herself has altogether ignored the new party while other conservatives have been as dismissive as Schäuble.

Not all, however. Christian Bäumler of the Christian Democratic Employees’ Association recognizes that vilifying the party does little to persuade right-wing voters. “We have to counter the AfD politically,” he told the Handelsblatt newspaper, “when, as in the regional elections in Brandenburg, they represent xenophobic or nationalist positions.” Read more “German Right Underestimates Alternative Challenge”