Germany’s Election Hangover: The Right Wing Takes Flight

BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 13:  Frauke Petry, head of the Alternative fuer Deutschland (Alternative for Germany, AfD) political party, smiles following initial state election results on March 13, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. State elections taking place today in three German states: Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony-Anhalt and Baden-Wuerttemberg, are a crucial test-case for German Chancellor and Chairwoman of the German Christian Democrats (CDU) Angela Merkel, who has come under increasing pressure over her liberal immigration policy towards migrants and refugees. The populist AfD, with campaign rhetoric aimed at Germans who are uneasy with so many newcomers, has solid polling numbers and will almost certainly win seats in all three state parliaments.  (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY – MARCH 13: Frauke Petry, head of the Alternative fuer Deutschland (Alternative for Germany, AfD) political party, smiles following initial state election results on March 13, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. State elections taking place today in three German states: Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony-Anhalt and Baden-Wuerttemberg, are a crucial test-case for German Chancellor and Chairwoman of the German Christian Democrats (CDU) Angela Merkel, who has come under increasing pressure over her liberal immigration policy towards migrants and refugees. The populist AfD, with campaign rhetoric aimed at Germans who are uneasy with so many newcomers, has solid polling numbers and will almost certainly win seats in all three state parliaments. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

You don’t have to like the Alternative for Germany (AfD), the country’s rising anti-immigrant, right-wing populist party. You can repudiate their positions and fight against them. You can even call into question the veracity of the party’s name: Thus far, the AfD hasn’t offered up much of an alternative at all, at least not one that goes beyond churlish negation. The party is against Merkel, against refugees, against the media, against the euro and against Islam. What does it stand for, you almost have to ask?

 

But the trio of state elections on Sunday showed very clearly that, for a great many voters, AfD was in fact the only electable alternative to the rest of the parties on the ballots. With mainstream parties big and small having thrown their support behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approach to the refugee crisis, the AfD was the only outlet left for those voters frustrated and angered by her policies.The result was something of a political earthquake in Germany. AfD didn’t even exist as a political party the last time voters in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt went to the polls. But it came away with 15.1 percent, 12.6 percent and an astounding 24.2 percent of the vote respectively in the three elections. Many are reading it as a repudiation of Merkel’s refugee crisis leadership.
But was it? In every interview, Merkel, the leader of the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU), emphasizes that she thinks deeply about the refugee crisis every day. She thinks and thinks, considering pros and cons. In the end, she would have Germans believe, she doesn’t just arrive at the most logical solution. No, she arrives at the only possible logical solution. Because if she spends all day thinking about the problem, and does so over the course of several weeks and months, then there cannot be a better solution than the one arrived at by the constantly thinking chancellor.