In December there were indications that the people of France were fed up with the problems being caused by a wave of largely Islamic immigrants to their nation and that their elections might be carried by the National Front party under the leadership of Marine Le Pen. That insurgent push wound up failing, but it was a close thing. This weekend there was a similar drama playing out in Germany as their state level legislative elections were held. The nationalist leaning Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has been challenging Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union party over her open doors immigration policy. Unlike France in December though, the upstarts scored several big victories and shook the establishment to its roots. (Yahoo News)
A nationalist, anti-migration party powered into three German state legislatures in elections Sunday held amid divisions over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal approach to the refugee crisis. Merkel’s conservatives lost to center-left rivals in two states they had hoped to win.
The elections in the prosperous southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate and relatively poor Saxony-Anhalt in the ex-communist east were the first major political test since Germany registered nearly 1.1 million people as asylum-seekers last year.
The Germans in particular have been hit by one incident after another where the new immigrants have set the local’s teeth on edge. Sexual assaults, rising crime rates and clashes with German culture are daily news items. Some in Germany are coming to the conclusion that there are limits to charity, particularly when the price tag doesn’t just come in the form of limited cash to assist the needy, but the erosion of their culture.
“It is not sustainable anymore that no one’s playing a common game,” said Yves Pascouau, a migration expert at the European Policy Center. “We need to fix this and really need to move ahead.”
But not all Europeans see this as a problem they must share. Worried about their own weak economies, concerned that their national values are eroding, many say war in the Middle East and poverty in Africa are someone else’s responsibility.
Is any of this sounding familiar to American readers? We’ve been fortunate to not find ourselves awash in such a proportionally large flood of newcomers, but these stories do have parallels on both sides of the Atlantic. And there are political hopefuls in both nations carrying the same type of banner. As Bloomberg reports, some have taken to referring to the AfD’s co-leader, Frauke Petry, as Germany’s Donald Trump.
The Alternative for Germany, to give the party its full name, has shaken up the country’s consensus-driven politics with headline-grabbing policies that include telling Germans to have more children to avoid the need for immigration. Frauke Petry, the AfD’s co-leader, has said that police must “prevent illegal border crossings, using firearms if necessary.”
Like Trump, her rhetoric hasn’t damaged AfD support but rather struck a chord with those disgruntled with the establishment parties, in particular nabbing voters unhappy with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy for refugees. The party surged to record support in Sunday’s regional elections, taking seats in all three states that voted and boosting its representation to half of Germany’s 16 state assemblies. The AfD had its strongest showing in Saxony-Anhalt with 24.2 percent, making it the second-biggest party in the former communist eastern state, according to preliminary official results.
Is this a cautionary tale or simply a growing trend in western societies? There are plenty of complaints to be made about some of Donald Trump’s policy proposals and questions remain about his pre-politics positions and statements, but there’s also little question that he’s tapped into something which runs much deeper than a passing political headline or two. We’re seeing this performance play out in France and Germany this winter, but these are questions which we’ll have to wrestle with here in the United States sooner or later.