Shortly after the end of the Nazi regime in the 1940s, Germany structured a new political system, one of the main objectives of which was to prevent the emergence of undemocratic tendencies. From then on, an alert was raised in the country in 2017, when for the first time since the end of World War II (1939-1945) a radical right-wing acronym won seats in the national parliament.
The party in question was the Alternative for Germany (AfD) – last week the deputy party leader met Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (no party).
A young acronym, the AfD was born in 2013, but it was not until the 2017 elections to the Bundestag (the German Parliament) that it became a relevant force on the national scene by breaking down one of the main barriers of the local political system: the barrier clause. The mechanism was introduced in the country in 1946 to prevent party fragmentation and establishes that only acronyms that obtain 5% or more of the vote can occupy legislative seats.
That year, the AfD took third place in the national vote, garnering 12.6% of the vote, which gives it the right to occupy 94 (13.3%) of the 709 seats in parliament. One of those vacancies was occupied by Beatrix von Storch, 50, MP from the more conservative wing of the acronym and with whom Bolsonaro, her son Eduardo (PSL-SP) and MP Bia Kicis (PSL- DF) met in Brasilia.
Openly anti-immigration and with a history of xenophobic postures, the party is the first represented in Parliament to be indicted by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV, in its German acronym), for suspicion of extremism and, in the latter case, a risk for democracy.
As explained by Silvana Krause, professor of political science at the UFRGS (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul), the emergence of the AfD takes place in a context of defrosting of the party system and loss of political strength. German Social Democracy.
Moreover, some of the more conservative voters have come to move away in recent years from the CDU (Christian Democratic Union), the most traditional center-right party in the country. The departure came after Prime Minister Angela Merkel, the top leadership of the CDU, adopted a series of positions seen as more progressive, such as prioritizing the fight against climate change and keeping borders open amid the refugee crisis.
This scenario opened a window of opportunity for previously eclipsed acronyms to capture the more conservative electorate. “It is possible to understand the AfD as a movement to rescue nationalism,” Krause explains. The party also mobilized in the aftermath of the discontented portions of German reunification, consolidated in the 1990s after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The refugee migration crisis, which has intensified over the past decade in Europe, has ended up serving as a springboard for the radical party. MP Beatrix, for example, is actively involved in the theme. In a note published on its official website at the end of June, she declared that “[Angela] Merkel imported Islamic terror with the illegal opening of the border ”.
“As the AfD, we demand an end to mass immigration and the immediate deportation of mentally unstable Islamic criminals to protect the people who live here, as well as the deportation of all other illegal immigrants without protection grounds. », Concludes the text.
In 2018, the parliamentarian was investigated for inciting hatred against Muslim immigrants on social media. Twitter and Facebook deleted their posts, classified as hate speech.
For Kai Lehmann, political scientist and professor of international relations at the University of São Paulo (USP), the party is continually moving in an anti-democratic and authoritarian direction. “It was the first strong anti-EU party [União Europeia], which shattered the consensus on German foreign policy, and gradually became ultra-right and anti-immigration.
The acronym adopts a more lenient position compared to the German past, with a few figures which relativize the German Nazi past. In September, the AfD fired a former spokesperson, Christian Lüth, after a recording leaked in which he suggested that immigrants be killed “with gas”.
Ms Beatrix herself is the granddaughter of two figures linked to the Third Reich: a former minister in the Nazi government, who headed the finance portfolio for 12 years and was later sentenced by the Nuremberg Tribunal to 10 years in prison for war crimes; and Nikolaus von Oldenburg, duke who was part of the SA, the Nazi repressive force.
All of the legendary positions mean that the AfD is not well regarded by a large part of the international community. There have been few international meetings of the acronym – the leaders of the legend have already met the Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukachenko; with Russian President Vladimir Putin; and with the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, according to the information of the German channel Deutsche Welle.
The latest polls indicate that the AfD may see its support wane in the next elections, scheduled for September. According to the research aggregator developed by the British newspaper The Guardian, the AfD has been dehydrated since the start of the campaign. The acronym started the protest in third place, with an average of 14.4% of voting intentions in 2020, and now sits in fifth place, with 10.4% at the last count.
For Lehmann, despite this, the party’s presence in parliament remains worrying in a country where the party system favored consensus, warding off radicalism. “In the short term it may not be a threat, but in the long term it may be a threat to German democracy,” he says. “The AfD has caused a decline in the quality of the political debate, which is increasingly polarized.”