This post first appeared on Russia Insider
The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party is the only major political party in Germany that has taken a stand against the elites' agenda. AfD gets attacked especially for their strong opposition to mass migration. Because of this, other parties have refused to work with them.
Given that the German political system has shown itself unable to address any of the country's many serious problems, it is no wonder that AfD has been quickly gaining popularity.
Deep processes are also developing in German politics, although they aren't as dramatic as in the UK. However, they could drastically change the situation in the country in the coming years, and not only in the country but in the entire Old World. The regional elections in the east of Germany, in the states of Brandenburg and Saxony, now attract lots of attention. On September 1st, there were elections to the regional parliaments. The main outcome is that the AfD got the second biggest number of votes. It's a right-wing political party of Euroskeptics. It opposes Angela Merkel's migration policy.
Does Berlin hear the voice of the people from the east of the country? Our staff correspondent in Germany, Mikhail Antonov, has the details.
Andreas Kalbits is a short, athletically built, middle-aged man, a former Bundeswehr paratrooper. It doesn't seem that such a person needs a bodyguard to walk along Potsdam. But he has one. The German liberal press describes Kalbits as a politician of ultra right-wing views. In the federal state of Brandenburg, under his leadership, the AfD party placed second in the local parliamentary elections. They got over 23% of the votes. But they need more.
Andreas Kalbits, leader of the AfD in the Brandenburg parliament: “We don't confine ourselves to the east. We don't say: we're fine here, let's build a fence around ourselves, and let the Ruhr region suffer because of Islamization. This isn't our approach. The AfD stands for unity around the country. We're going to undertake responsibility at the federal level. We don't need a piece of cake. We need a bakery.”
In the elections in Saxony, which were held at the same time, also got second best but a more impressive result - almost 28%. Over the past four years, the party’s popularity has tripled. Yes, the ruling Social Democratic Party remains in power in Saxony and Brandenburg. They're very happy about it. But they're happy as a convict, whose execution was replaced with hard labor at the last moment. It's unclear how to rule further. The AfD caused them such damage, which in the language of the military is called unacceptable, using the two most sensitive issues - the migration crisis, which recently "celebrated" its fourth anniversary and the East economically and socially lagging behind the West.
Bjorn Hecke, AfD leader in Thuringia: “Illegal migration cost us, Germans, 50-100 billion euros per year. This is the money that we can't spend on social projects within the country any longer. We have 750,000 elderly people below the poverty line. They are forced to look for subsidiary earnings because their miserable pension isn't enough for anything. Two and a half million children in Germany live in terrible poverty. Meanwhile, 33% of the unemployment benefits paid are received by migrants, and this figure continues to grow. The traditional parties - from the left-wing ones to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union - give away our state with its insurance system to be looted.”
At the same time, in the news, they say that the German economy is close to a recession, the prospect of which doesn't look good but even bad. Or they talk about terrible things of a different kind. For example, at a train station in Frankfurt, a refugee from Eritrea shoved a woman and a child in front of a train. The boy was killed. Or they show a migrant from Syria chopping a man with a machete in front of his daughter's eyes, accompanied by an unchanged commentary that Germans are still the basis of crime in Germany. People analyze facts, spit on the TV, and go vote for the AfD.
Alexander Rahr, political analyst: “The alienation of the German authorities, or the establishment, from the broad masses is also evident. I don't know what it'll result in. If you look at what happened in the east of Germany, there's a colossal problem indeed, infrastructure projects are necessary, they need to make people realize that the state's government does something to overcome unemployment. Coal mines get shut down there, there's almost no industry. The problems need to be solved. What have the leading parties been talking about recently? They've been saying that they need to create a united front against the AfD as if it's the main problem.”
It means that the AfD remains nearly the only force that accumulates the protest electorate. AfD leaders say that it reflects the sentiments of the middle class. But it's also true that people with low incomes vote for it. In the east, it is the most popular political force among voters aged 18 to 25. Over the past four years, the AfD has become the true party of the workers and peasants. Its success in Saxony and Brandenburg was ensured precisely by rural German settlements.
This is the village of Heinersbruck, 100 kilometers (60 miles) away from Berlin. It has a church but doesn't have a store, a school, a hospital, a mobile connection, or mobile internet. Out of 600 voters here, over 300 voted for the AfD. Heinersbruck looks nice. The village lives off the mine where brown coal is mined, which they burn at the thermal power plant nearby. But the plant will be shut down due to the transition to more environmentally friendly fuels. Then, they'll get unemployment benefits, unless, of course, the policy isn't changed.
Andreas Kalbits: “They try to convince the population that if coal power plants are closed in Germany, the climate can be saved all over the world. This is absolutely stupid. An industrial country like Germany shouldn't suffer from climate madness and hysteria.”
Agriculture was an important source of income for the five eastern German states. It's in the past because after Russia responded to the Western sanctions, enterprises oriented to its market simply collapsed. People are fleeing. The population size of the east is at the level of 1905. A politician who approaches a local voter with something anti-Russian risks being beaten. Therefore, local leaders of states, regardless of their party affiliation, openly, no longer afraid of either the press or Merkel, say that the sanctions must be lifted. But this is solely in the AfD's program.
Bjorn Hecke, AfD leader in Thuringia: “Many people in the east don't agree with Germany's sanctions policy with respect to Russia. Many eastern Germans believe that the federal government doesn't take national interests into consideration and adheres to the course that is beneficial only to the Americans but not to Germany. Russia's image is positive here. We want to have friendly relations with Moscow. This is one of our party program's items. We need a new foreign-policy orientation.”
This is Bjorn Hecke, the AfD leader in Thuringia, another part of former East Germany. They call him the leader of the party's ultra-right wing. The federal media suggests a terrible image of him. But in practice, this doesn't work. Hecke will lead his fellows to storm the state's parliament at the end of October.
Thuringia is the heart of Germany. The city of Eisenach is the country's geographical. The Wartburg castle is its main attraction. This place already appeared in one of our reports three and a half years ago. Then, in the wake of the migration crisis, western and eastern Germans suddenly became perceived again as two completely different peoples, depending on their attitude to the phenomenon. It isn't just a perception but a fact now, which the election results confirm.
In the Wartburg castle, the church reformation ideologist Martin Luther worked on the religious doctrine of the bourgeois class that was new at that time. Now, 500 years later, Thuringia could become the site of another collapse of the CDU and the SPD - the political parties expressing traditional bourgeois values. Just as it already happened in Brandenburg and Saxony, where many voters acted following the principle of "for anybody but them."
Alexander Rahr, political analyst: “A Christian Democrat, who won the election for 30 years, told me a couple of days ago in Dresden that he's having tremendous problems. The AfD has a person in my district who works at a gas station. And only due to the fact that the AfD supports him and that he's the main AfD candidate in my district, everyone will vote for him, and I'll lose.”
For the ruling parties in Germany, although the regional elections could have turned out much worse, their positions didn't improve. Merkel remains aloof. She didn't say a word about the elections, which provoked a lot of criticism. The stability of her coalition is in question. The Social Democrats could leave it any moment now - after the elections in Thuringia or after the reporting Congress in December. Voters are leaving the oldest party in Germany for The Left or for The Greens, which are becoming the same new center of attraction for the discontented in the west, as the AfD is in the west. The AfD also has problems. It has too many branches. There are moderate Transatlantists, vibrant Eurasianists, ultra-right and just right-wing conservatives. And this party has yet to determine its political profile. But it'll happen later. The AfD is now pushing through like a bull. It doesn't seem that the political mainstream movement, although this is now a very vague concept, has ideas of how to stop it.Support Russia Insider - Go Ad-Free!
This helplessness can result only in the further polarization of society. The centrists - the Christian and Social Democrats - will likely lose the status of the people's parties. The AfD and The Greens pretend for this honorary title. Only a fight, not a dialogue, is possible between them. It's logical. The crisis of liberalism must take the most dramatic forms in one of the world's most liberal countries.
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
Anyone is free to republish, copy, and redistribute the text in this content (but not the images or videos) in any medium or format, with the right to remix, transform, and build upon it, even commercially, as long as they provide a backlink and credit to Russia Insider. It is not necessary to notify Russia Insider. Licensed Creative Commons
Our commenting rules: You can say pretty much anything except the F word. If you are abusive, obscene, or a paid troll, we will ban you. Full statement from the Editor, Charles Bausman.