Germany elections: In Saxony, the far-right AfD wields power

Germany elections: In Saxony, the far-right AfD wields power

Görlitz, Germany – Doreen, a clothes shop saleswoman, is in Görlitz’s town square, which is quickly filling with supporters of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Around her, a largely grey-haired crowd swells into the hundreds.A band plays Dire Straits and a placard reads: “We share our pension, but not with the whole world: Solidarity requires borders.”The event headliners are two of the party’s most prominent faces – parliamentary leader Alice Weidel and co-chair Tino Chrupalla, a tradesman and painter from Görlitz who in 2017 narrowly removed the conservative incumbent to claim the district’s seat in the federal parliament.

“He’s a good man,” Doreen told Al Jazeera. “He says what many are thinking.”Originally established to oppose the Eurozone, the AfD has carved out a role as Germany’s leading opponent of migrants and asylum seekers, eventually riding the backlash against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies into the federal parliament for the first time in 2017.It took 94 seats, making it the largest opposition party, with much of its support drawn from the states in what was formerly East Germany.Since then, it has established itself in all state legislatures, where it campaigns against migrants, climate protection, LGBTQ rights, socialism and the European Union.The AfD has become even more nativist under the growing influence of its eastern branches, where leading figures include Björn Höcke, a hardliner who once called Berlin’s Holocaust memorial a “memorial of shame”.Germany’s domestic intelligence agency put the party under observation in March due to suspicions it was engaged in right-wing “extremism”, local media reported.Sidelined for much of the past two years as immigration dropped from voters’ priorities, the AfD was initially caught flat-footed by the coronavirus pandemic, before pivoting sharply against the government’s lockdown measures and advocating the right to refuse vaccination.The party is polling at about 11 percent nationally, short of the 13 percent it received in 2017.But an historically weak campaign by Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has created an opening in Saxony, where Görlitz is located, and the party commands its strongest support.A poll published by Insa last week put the AfD ahead on 26 percent in Saxony, placing them in pole position. It is predicted to significantly increase its share of directly elected representatives across the state, leading in almost every district outside the big cities.“The difference to the years before is that [Merkel’s] CDU is performing very, very badly these days; especially in the federal election polls. And so suddenly, the AfD is becoming the strongest party,” said Maik Herold, a political scientist at the nearby Technical University of Dresden.

 

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