Far-right party set to shake up German Parliament

Posters of Chancellor Angela Merkel are seen in the German town of Stralsund as she continued on her campaign trail ahead of elections next Sunday. Despite her seeming popularity, her rallies have been plagued by protesters.
Posters of Chancellor Angela Merkel are seen in the German town of Stralsund as she continued on her campaign trail ahead of elections next Sunday. Despite her seeming popularity, her rallies have been plagued by protesters.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Alternative for Germany party could be biggest opposition force after elections next Sunday

FRANKFURT AN DER ODER (Germany) • The first far-right party set to enter Germany's Parliament in more than half a century says it will press for Chancellor Angela Merkel to be "severely punished" for opening the doors to refugees and migrants.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has also called for Germany's Immigration Minister to be "disposed of" in Turkey, where her parents come from, could become the third-largest party with up to 12 per cent of the vote next Sunday, polls show.

The prospect of the party, which the Foreign Minister has compared to the Nazis, entering the heart of German democracy is unnerving the other parties. They all refuse to work with the AfD and no one wants to sit next to it in Parliament.

The AfD could end up as the biggest opposition force in the national assembly if there is a re-run of the current coalition of Dr Merkel's conservatives and the Social Democrats - one of the most likely scenarios. That would mean it would chair the powerful budget committee and open the general debate during budget consultations, giving prominence to its alternatives to government policies.

But leading AfD candidate Alexander Gauland denies they are Nazis, saying others use the term only because of the party's popularity.

The party has won support with calls for Germany to shut its borders immediately, introduce a minimum quota for deportations and stop refugees bringing their families here.

MOVING TO THE RIGHT

Over the last three to four years, the anti-establishment voters, plus disillusioned conservatives fed up with the euro zone rescue and migration deal, are shifting more and more to the right.

MR TIMO LOCHOCKI, a political analyst at the German Marshall Fund.

"We are gradually becoming foreigners in our own country," Mr Gauland told an election rally in the Polish border city of Frankfurt an der Oder.

A song with the lyrics "we'll bring happiness back to your homeland" blared out of a blue campaign bus, and the 76-year-old lawyer said Germany belonged to the Germans, that Islam had no place there and that the migrant influx would make everyone worse off.

Mr Gauland provoked outrage for saying at another event that Germans should no longer be reproached for their Nazi past and they should take pride in what their soldiers achieved during World Wars I and II. The Nazis ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, during which time they killed six million Jews in the Holocaust and invaded countries across Europe.

Dr Merkel may appear to be cruising to victory in next week's elections, but her campaign rallies across Germany have been plagued by rowdy protesters who have been jeering, booing and even flinging tomatoes at her.

From the western university- town of Heidelberg to the picturesque southern city of Rosenheim and the eastern heartland of Torgau, protesters bearing banners saying "Get lost" or "Merkel must go" have sought to drown out the Chancellor's speeches.

The unruly protests have jolted awake a snoozy campaign and tarnished Dr Merkel's image of invincibility, even though her conservative alliance is commanding a strong double-digit lead in opinion polls.

"The rage is not fuelled only by Merkel's refugee policy, but also by powerlessness, from the feeling of not being taken seriously by 'them up there',"weekly magazine Spiegel said.

Mr Timo Lochocki, a political analyst at the German Marshall Fund, said the anger had been "long in the making" because the ruling coalition "does next to nothing to appease these voters".

"Over the last three to four years, the anti-establishment voters, plus disillusioned conservatives fed up with the euro zone rescue and migration deal, are shifting more and more to the right," he said - and straight into the arms of the AfD.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2017, with the headline 'Far-right party set to shake up German Parliament'. Print Edition | Subscribe