Merkel's conservatives warn of Donald Trump effect in Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a statement to comment on the result of the presidential elections in the US on Nov 9, 2016 in Berlin.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a statement to comment on the result of the presidential elections in the US on Nov 9, 2016 in Berlin. PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN (REUTERS) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and other conservatives warned on Thursday (Nov 10) that populists would pose a problem for Europe unless mainstream politicians responded after Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential election.

Trump's win has shaken many European lawmakers ahead of elections next year, including in France and Germany, where right-wing parties are expected to notch up big gains.

"Demagogic populism is not only a problem in America,"Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Bild daily. "Elsewhere in the West, too, the political debate is in an alarming state."

Chancellor Angela Merkel is widely expected to stand for a fourth term in an election in September and her conservatives are roughly 10 points ahead of their nearest rivals, the Social Democrats who currently share power with her.

However, her open-door migrant policy has angered voters. The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has embraced tough anti-immigrant rhetoric, is swaying supporters from the bigger parties. Founded less than four years ago, it now has seats in more than half of Germany's state assemblies.

Schaeuble said politicians had to respond by being more inclusive. His words were echoed by Hans-Peter Friedrich, of Bavaria's CSU - sister party to Merkel's CDU - who said he feared that there could be a Trump effect in Germany.

He said people feel they have no control over things, including European Central Bank policy and immigration, he said. "If there are no answers provided by the main parties in our country, they will turn to populists," Friedrich told Bild.

 

Germany's EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, a senior member of Merkel's conservative, told German radio that the US election was a warning for Germany.

"Things are getting simplified, black or white, good or bad, right or wrong. You can ask simple questions, but one should not give simple answers," Oettinger told Deutschlandfunk radio.

He said politicians and media should better explain complicated things with facts, but they should also embrace social media to reach younger voters in the new digital world.

The AfD, polling at around 13 per cent, on Wednesday welcomed Trump's victory as the disempowerment of political elites.

INSA chief Hermann Binkert told Bild politicians had not taken on board the warning signs and a growing number of people had rejected the established parties and turned to the AfD.

However, polls show a majority of Germans still reject rabble rousing slogans. A Politbarometer poll for broadcaster ZDF showed some 82 per cent of Germans think it is bad or very bad that Trump became president.

Experts also argue that Germany's political system, established after World War Two to avoid the rise of another dictator after Hitler, makes the rise of individual politicians like Trump or even a single party difficult.

The poll also showed that 65 per cent of Germans expect relations with the US to deteriorate under Trump.

After World War Two, the United States was one of the closest allies of West Germany - then the front line in the Cold War.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, ties have remained close but a scandal about NSA mass surveillance in Germany have chilled relations.

Merkel has offered to work closely with Trump on the basis of shared values, such as democracy, freedom, respect for the rule of law and people's race, religion and gender.