‘Nazis back in the Reichstag’ as Germans vote

Protests last night: “Down with Nazis” says the slogan after the AfD’s success. © Getty

Germany’s foreign minister said this, but should we take him seriously? Last night Angela Merkel was elected for a fourth term while nationalists made a historic surge in federal elections.

Angela Merkel will continue as chancellor of Germany, but her status as the sensible strongwoman of Europe was shattered as her Christian Democratic Union underachieved in yesterday’s general election.

Her party won 32.5% of the vote, remaining the largest in the Reichstag. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) came a poor second with just 20% of the vote.

The SPD have refused to continue their coalition with Merkel’s party, leaving the country in political limbo.

But the real story was the success of Alternative for Germany (AfD), which finished third with 13.5% of the vote. To put it mildly, AfD is the outlier party in the moderate, consensus-driven world of German politics.

The party was formed by eurosceptic economists in 2012, but quickly found there were votes to be won by adopting a hardline anti-Islam, anti-migration stance. Angela Merkel’s decision in 2015 to let in 1.2m refugees and migrants in two years only boosted the party’s support.

Before the election foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said of AfD: “If we’re unlucky, we will have real Nazis in the German Reichstag for the first time since the end of WWII.”

Is it fair to compare the members and supportes of AfD with the Nazis?

Echoes of history

“This is a disgraceful smear tactic,” say some. AfD do not use violence to reach their goals. They do not goose-step down the streets. They simply object to mass immigration from the Muslim world, while also daring to raise objections to the EU. The comparison is extremely lazy.

“We have seen this before,” warn others. As Sigmar Gabriel put it: “Everything that they are saying, I’ve already heard – just to be clear – from my own father, who was a Nazi to his last breath.” AfD stirs up hatred against minorities. Be under no illusion: these people are today’s Nazis.

You Decide

  1. Are the Germans in AfD Nazis?

Activities

  1. In one minute, list as many European political parties as you can.

Some People Say...

“Nationalism can never be separated from the Nazis.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Angela Merkel has won a fourth term as chancellor of Germany, but she suffered disappointment at the polls yesterday. The right-wing Alternative für Deutschland party came third with 13.5%. The party opposes the EU and mass immigration from the Muslim world.
What do we not know?
Whether last night marks the high point for AfD, or whether the party will ever get close to governing.

Word Watch

Reichstag
Germany’s parliament building, located in Berlin. The country’s parliament is called the Bundestag.
Coalition
A system where more than one party form the government.
13.5%
AfD came second in the former East Germany, winning 21% of the vote. This region is poorer than the rest of the country and has seen anti-immigration demonstrations in recent years.
1.2m refugees and migrants
AfD intends to hold a parliamentary inquiry on Merkel’s decision to allow them to settle in Germany.

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