Complicity of the Union for strengthened AfD

The right-wing nationalist AfD is currently experiencing a boom. This not only gives Schleswig-Holstein’s Prime Minister Günther reason to criticize his own camp.

The CDU chairman Friedrich Merz was very critical of his own party on Saturday. Accordingly, he sees a joint responsibility of the CDU in the emergence of the right-wing nationalist AfD, which in recent polls has received approval ratings of up to 20 percent.

“In a democracy, nothing and nobody is without alternatives,” said Merz on Saturday at the Evangelical Church Congress in Nuremberg. He was referring to the repeated statement by former CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel that numerous decisions by her government were “without alternative”. As early as 2010, the Society for the German Language named the term non-word of the year.

It was precisely this rhetoric that gave the AfD the breeding ground to stylize itself as the supposedly true opposition and voice of a silent majority: “The name of this party was a direct reaction to this word and that’s why we have a high degree of responsibility for the fact that something like this existed .”

Merz categorically ruled out cooperation with the AfD, which was observed in parts by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. “Working with people like that is completely unimaginable for me,” he said. “It’s out of the question to work with people like that.”

Günther criticizes ineffective Union parties

Shortly before, Schleswig-Holstein’s head of government Daniel Günther (CDU) had admitted that the Union parties were currently contributing to the success of the AfD. “As a Union, we don’t succeed sufficiently in being noticed with convincing offers and picking up the disappointed votes,” Günther told the “Welt am Sonntag”. “So far we haven’t managed to show people our alternatives, for example when it comes to heating, more precisely. We have to explain more clearly where we want to go.”

Daniel Günther, CDU Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein, at a meeting of the Bundesrat. (Those: Imago)

The fact that Germany wants to be climate-neutral by 2045 is also not up for debate for the Union, said Günther. “This means that the heating area must of course also become emission-free.” The path of the Union would be just different, he explained. “We should state that clearly despite all the criticism of the considerable technical and communicative inadequacies of the traffic light coalition.”

Günther does not think it makes sense for the government and opposition to blame each other on the subject of the AfD. “Both of them are currently unable to keep the AfD’s poll numbers at a lower level,” Günther said. He was critical of the government work of the FDP at federal level. “What doesn’t work: to give the government’s internal opposition in Berlin. In the end, that only harms the entire government,” said the CDU politician.

“Greatest threat to the economy and cohesion”

In recent surveys by the opinion research institutes Forsa, GMS and Yougov, the AfD had achieved high approval ratings. According to this, 17 to 20 percent of those eligible to vote in Germany would vote for the right-wing nationalist party if there were federal elections next Sunday. In the eastern federal states, a particularly large number of respondents stated that they would vote for the AfD.

The AfD party leader Alice Weidel and the right-wing extremist AfD parliamentary group leader in the Thuringian state parliament, Björn Höcke, at a large party demonstration in Erfurt in April.
The AfD party leader Alice Weidel and the right-wing extremist AfD parliamentary group leader in the Thuringian state parliament, Björn Höcke, at a large party demonstration in Erfurt in April. (What: IMAGO/KH)

These results are also what drives the federal government’s commissioner for Eastern Europe, Carsten Schneider (SPD). He sees the strength of the AfD “as the greatest threat to economic development in East Germany and social cohesion.”

However, the SPD politician does not believe that the AfD will become the strongest party in the upcoming state elections in the east next year, as he said in Deutschlandfunk’s “Interview of the Week”. Because “no one trusts the AfD to solve problems,” the Thuringian SPD member of the Bundestag justified the assumption. However, the right-wing party was as strong as it is now in 2018, and this is not a new phenomenon.

A lack of participation paves the way to the AfD

Those voters who do not vote for the AfD must be strengthened – after all, they make up three quarters of the voters. At the same time, all parties beyond the AfD in the East German state parliaments must be able to form coalitions with one another. In 2024, new state parliaments will be elected in Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia. There are also numerous local elections in the East.