Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

The Brief: Germany’s centre in free-fall

Germany's far right AfD leader giving a speech

The Brief  is a breakdown of the forces driving the headlines and what you can do to make a difference

Catch up Since 2013, Germany has been ruled by a ‘grand coalition’ made up of two centre-right sister parties – the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union – and the centre-left Social Democratic party. After the 2017 election, the Social Democratic party reluctantly re-entered what is now a fragile coalition.

What’s happening With splits beginning to emerge in Germany’s once impenetrable centre, smaller parties on the extremes of German politics are beginning to gain momentum. Angela Merkel is now entering her fourth term as Chancellor, and her popularity is beginning to wane. The SDP is currently going through a process of renewal, which you can read about on our website here, but like most centre-left parties across Europe – they are facing an uphill climb.

The 2017 election was the first time a far-right party has gained seats in the German Bundestag since the 1950s. Germany’s not-so-distant history with the far-right understandably has many people anxious. Figures within this resurgent movement – the Alternative for Germany – have drawn lots of criticism for talking about an ‘invasion of foreigners’ and saying that a black German football player is someone that most people ‘don’t want to have as their neighbour’.

They have also drawn praise for this – their Facebook page is littered with comments that talk nostalgically about the racial policies of the Nazis and even the industrial massacres of the holocaust.

In August, the AfD hit 17 per cent in the polls.

How did we get here? Many countries around the world – including our own – are dealing with the rise of the politics of extremes, but the situation hasn’t been helped by splits in the grand governing coalition. The most significant splits have come over Angela Merkel’s policy towards refugees, which some on the right consider to be too liberal. The AfD have exploited this division, and as we head into the Bavarian state election this weekend, look likely to take seats in this state for the first time.

So this means more power for the far-right? Yep. Penny Bochum has analysed the lay of the land for you on our website if you want to know more, but spoiler alert: it’s not looking good.

People are saying From Penny’s article: ‘The fragmentation of politics in Bavaria is a microcosm of national politics in Germany. The re-energised Green party, which elected new co-leaders in January, is due to overtake the SPD as the strongest party on the left.  But the most important rise is that of the AfD, which not only won votes from nearly one and a half million previous non-voters in 2017, but also from one million former CDU/CSU supporters, half a million SPD voters and 400,000 former Left party voters. The AfD’s success has not just been limited to voters either – they have fundamentally shifted the debate.

‘This year, the CSU has lurched rightwards in a bid to win voters from the AfD. Horst Seehofer, the head of the CSU and German interior minister, has been a key driver of this, against the advice of high ranking members of his own party. As soon as the new national government was formed in March, Seehofer echoed the AfD by saying that “Islam does not belong in Germany”.’

Be a progressive Reading this, most of us have that now familiar sinking feeling in our stomach. Well, take a deep breath, because the only way to get rid of the far-right is to get involved. On the off-chance you know someone in Bavaria, make sure they’re voting on Sunday.

For the rest of you, head over to Hope not Hate to learn more about the rise of the far-right on our own doorstep.

We cannot let this be normalised.

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Stefan Rollnick is editorial assistant at Progress. He tweets at @StefanRollnick

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