“Cologne, Kassel or Constance can’t face more Kabul,” Alternative for Germany said on one of its posters ahead of the September 26 elections – a reference to the government’s decision to host several thousand Afghans who had worked for Germany. military or humanitarian groups before the Taliban took control.
Another poster, showing a retired couple hugging on a jetty, reads: “We will share our pensions, but not with the whole world. Solidarity has its limits.
The party rocked the German political establishment four years ago, when it came third in the parliamentary elections after stoking anti-immigrant sentiment following Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision in 2015 to allow hundreds of thousands people fleeing war and poverty in the country.
“The 2017 elections were heavily influenced by refugee and migration policy,” said Hendrik Traeger, political scientist at the University of Leipzig. “The alternative for Germany has made this its central problem. This time, however, it is not among the top three electoral topics. “
According to polls, the main issues this time around are climate change, COVID-19, pensions and the economy.
The election will result in a changing of the guard in Germany. Merkel, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union, retires at 67 after 16 years as chancellor.
Polls indicate that Alternative for Germany, known by its German acronym AfD, may struggle to retain the 12.6% share of the vote it won four years ago – although the researchers note that respondents do not always admit in polls that they will vote for the party.
Yet even with a weak double-digit result, the AfD could pose a headache for the party that wins the election, forcing it to form a larger and heavier coalition to secure a majority.
The polls placed Merkel’s Union bloc narrowly behind its junior partner, the center-left Social Democrats, less than two weeks before election day. They and all the other parties have categorically ruled out working with the AfD.
AfD co-leader Tino Chrupalla has no illusions that his party will win big. But he said he was convinced he could enter the government of one of Germany’s 16 states in the years to come and build on that.
Given the country’s Nazi past, the rise of the AfD has alarmed many in Germany and beyond. The party has come under close scrutiny by German intelligence agencies over its links to extremists, and Jewish leaders have accused it of downplaying the crimes of the Nazis.
The AfD opposes school mask requirements and other government policies on coronaviruses, does not view climate change as a man-made problem, has a pleasant relationship with Russia, and wants Germany to quit the European Union.
Armin Laschet, who heads the Union bloc, insisted his party would not ally with the AfD. “We need Europe more than ever,” he said in June, accusing the AfD of “harming German interests”.
This commitment will be put to the test in eastern states like Saxony, where the AfD came in strong second with 27.5% of the vote in a state election two years ago.
“I’m pretty confident that sooner or later there will be no way around the Alternative for Germany,” Chrupalla said on Wednesday. “This will certainly happen first in a state parliament.”
Chrupalla said he already has plenty of contact with Union politicians and sees common ground with candidates such as Hans-Georg Maassen, the former head of German internal intelligence, who is currently running for a seat in the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, on an anti-immigration platform. . Many in Maassen’s party are not happy with his candidacy.
Maassen was ousted from his post as head of the BfV intelligence agency in 2018 after downplaying anti-immigrant violence.
In an effort to broaden its base, the AfD has backed opposition to the government’s COVID-19 measures, arguing that the virus does not pose a great threat. The researchers say that in Saxony resistance to vaccination is strongest in regions where AfD support is greatest.
“I say we have to be more relaxed,” Chrupalla said of the virus, which has killed nearly 93,000 people in Germany. “This virus, which will probably never go away, like viruses in general, will never go away, we’ll just have to live with it. “
As for climate change, which is listed as the most important topic among voters, the AfD accuses others of causing “panic”, wants Germany to leave the Paris agreement and believes that climate change must be viewed “positively”.
Follow AP’s coverage of the German elections at https://apnews.com/hub/germany-election