Far-right rises in Germany

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In the recent German federal election, the far-right wing Alternative for Germany (afD) party has entered government for the first time. With nearly 13 per cent of the popular vote in Germany’s proportional representation system of government, the afD gained 94 seats in the Bundestag, the German equivalent to Canadian Parliament. The Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), the center-right party in Germany, has achieved a plurality of the vote with 42 per cent and a total of 246 seats. Angela Merkel, the current German Chancellor (head of government at the federal level) and head of the CDU will remain in power. The Social Democratic Party (SPD), which along with the CDU is one of the two dominant parties in the country, won a total of 153 seats. Both the CDU and the SPD are down seats from the previous federal election in 2013.

Alternative for Germany is led by the co-Vice Chairs Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel. The Alternative for Germany (afD) party is focused on German nationalism, with a strong opposition to immigration and calling for the end of financial support of other European nations. The party has also run on a socially conservative platform, including opposition to marriage equality and support of what the party calls “traditional roles” for women. The party also denies human contribution to climate change.

Many see the rise of the AfD as part of a trend across the world of increasing power and influence of far-right wing, nationalist parties, who reject globalisation, liberalism, and multiculturalism. Many individuals have categorized the AfD as similar to the National Front in France and the election of Donald Trump in the United States.

The Political Science faculty at Brock University have expressed somewhat mixed reactions to the recent German election and its consequences. Hevina S. Dashwood, a Professor in the Department of Political Science at Brock, has stated that while alarming, the election does not fundamentally shift or change German politics:

“The strong performance of the far-right AfD in Germany, while concerning, does not change the overall result of the election. Angela Merkel, having secured her position as German Chancellor for a fourth term, will continue to provide crucial leadership to pressing global issues”, Professor Dashwood stated.  “Her authority and support for the Paris climate accord, a liberal global trade regime and multilateral processes through the UN will serve as a vital counter to inward-looking, nationalistic forces around the world.”

Paul Gray, an instructor in the Department of Labour Studies at Brock, struck a less hopeful tone.

“The recent electoral success of the ultra-nationalist, Islamophobic, far-right afD party in Germany is not surprising: it’s a predictable event in a broader global trend. People are disillusioned with the established political parties and electorates are increasingly polarizing between parties on the radical left, such as Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain, or to a much greater extent, parties on the far-right, such as afD in Germany and the Front National in France”, Professor Gray explained. “These far-right parties have been able to win support among some workers, particularly in de-industrialized areas, by blaming immigrants and asylum-seekers, who are themselves survivors of the real cause of deteriorating democracy and growing social inequalities: a global neoliberal politics that transfers wealth, resources, and power from the exploited and the oppressed back to the wealthiest corporations and governments.”

While this has just happened Gray’s response to this win for the afD and those that support them will be carefully measured in the coming years as the left-leaning parties attempt to find a way to assuage the people back to their side.

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