Germany’s far right scores first local victory

The FT shows how it is dissatisfied with the results of the popular vote in the local elections in Germany. ‘A danger for democracy’!  – writes:

Annette Scharfenberg, one of thousands of people who voted for the right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in a district election in eastern Germany, is angry. And she wants everyone in Berlin to know it.

Robert Sesselmann, a local lawyer, became the first AfD politician in Germany to become an elected Landrat — the equivalent of head of the county council — winning 53 per cent of the vote.

“It’s a milestone,” Alice Weidel, the AfD’s national leader, told the Financial Times. “[For the first time] we will have direct decision-making powers.”

That meant, she said, that the party would be able to decide whether Sonneberg, a county of about 56,000 people in the state of Thuringia, accepted refugees or not. “And of course we will put a stop to that, the whole nightmare.”

For others, though, the result was an unmitigated disaster. “It’s a warning signal,” Green leader Ricarda Lang said, adding that the AfD was a “danger for democracy”.

The AfD was formed in 2013 by a small group of Eurosceptic economists opposed to bailouts for southern eurozone countries. It gradually shifted its focus to immigration, adopting a stridently xenophobic and anti-Islamic tone, which won it legions of new fans, especially in former communist east Germany.

The party’s increasing radicalisation put off middle-of-the-road voters and its share of the vote slid in the last national elections in 2021. But in recent weeks, it has seen a surge in support amid widening public dissatisfaction with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government.

Some polls have placed the AfD as high as 20 per cent, ahead of Scholz’s Social Democrats and only a few points behind the biggest party, the opposition Christian Democratic Union.

Other polls suggest it is on course to win three critical state elections in eastern Germany next year — in Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg.

But discontent reached a new peak in Sonneberg — and in many other towns and cities in Germany — earlier this year when the government unveiled its plans to phase out gas- and oil-fired boilers and move instead to heat pumps powered by renewable energy.

The initiative triggered a dispute between Scholz’s coalition partners, the Greens and liberals, enhancing the perception that the government was hopelessly divided over everything from next year’s budget to how to tackle the climate crisis.

Scharfenberg said the boiler law was one of the main reasons she voted AfD on Sunday. “The cheek of it — it’s just unbelievable,” she said. “I don’t need a new boiler — mine works very well, thank you, and they can’t force me to replace it.”

Mike, a guard at Sonneberg’s main courthouse, complained about the huge nationwide refugee influx of recent months, which experts say is similar in scale to Germany’s migrant crisis of 2015-16. “How will they all be housed? There’s already not enough flats here,” he said.

He said he voted AfD in part because of its opposition to the government’s policy on Ukraine, including large-scale weapon supplies to Kyiv. “Germany profited for decades from cheap Russian gas, and now they’re the enemy?” he said.

Also the Alternative for Germany (AfD), represented in the German parliament, plans to nominate its candidate for the post of Federal Chancellor for the first time in the 2025 elections. This was announced on June 21 in a television interview by the co-chairman of this political association, 44-year-old Alis Weidel.

Should recall that the AfD was created not so long ago – in February 2013. The main principles are nationalism, right-wing populism, euroscepticism, anti-immigration. By 2023, it is represented in all Landtags of 16 federal states and has 79 seats in the Bundestag.

The AfD is extremely popular in the Eastern lands, on the territory of the former German Democratic Republic. In Thuringia, Brandenburg, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, the party won over 20% in local elections. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, as in the listed lands, it is the second power in the Landtag. As of January 2021, 32 thousand German citizens were its permanent members.