In 2017, the 12.6% of Alternative for Germany (AfD) had been a thunderclap. For the first time since the war, an extreme right-wing party entered the Bundestag, moreover as the main opposition force. On Sunday September 26, the AfD did less well: 10.3% of the vote.

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This setback at the national level, which was announced by the polls, however hides strong regional disparities. In the Eastern Länder, once again, the AfD scores excellent: first in Saxony, it also leads in Thuringia, the federation of Björn Höcke, the leader of its most radical wing, designated like a “Danger to democracy” by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the service responsible for internal intelligence.

On Sunday evening, officials of the far-right party preferred to comment on the Conservatives’ calamitous result – a “Earthquake”, according to Alexander Gauland, honorary president of the AfD and himself a former CDU – rather than wondering about the reasons for their decline, which they decided above all to attribute to journalists. “If we had been treated fairly by the media, we would have been 20%”, said Tino Chrupalla, the party’s co-chairman, himself reelected in Görlitz (Saxony).

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Judicial inquiries

Two main factors, in fact, explain this average score. The first is the absence, during this campaign, of the subjects that were central in 2017 – immigration, Islam – and on which the AfD had then been able to capitalize, two years after the refugee crisis. This year, after the Taliban took Kabul, the party briefly stirred fears of a new wave of migration from Afghanistan, but it did not come, and the AfD had to settle for campaign on different themes – defending freedoms against health restrictions, denouncing language “Gender”, the defense of motorists – without managing to mark the agenda.

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The second factor is linked to the image of the party. Undermined by internal rivalries which have led to shattering dismissals and thunderous resignations, the AfD is also the subject of several judicial inquiries linked in particular to cases of embezzlement. If this does not prevent it from consolidating its establishment in its eastern federations, the most radicalized, this sulphurous image is, on the other hand, a real obstacle to its progress with a more conservative and more bourgeois electorate. A phenomenon already observed in various regional elections, confirmed by Sunday’s legislative elections.

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