Germany Election setback for the extreme right after demonstrations

Germany: Election setback for the extreme right after demonstrations

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party lost in the local elections in the eastern German region of Thuringia, receiving only 47.6% of the vote in the second round, improving its result by just 1.9 points.

The German far right suffered an electoral setback on Sunday after unprecedented demonstrations against its program across the country, even though it appeared to be on an unstoppable upward momentum for months.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) has lost its bet for the second cantonal presidency in the local elections in the Saale-Orla district in the eastern German region of Thuringia. Their candidate, Uwe Thrume, received only 47.6% of the votes in the second round on Sunday, improving his result in the first round by just 1.9 points, while his conservative rival benefited from a strong vote transfer and received 52.4% completed.

The defeat of the AfD, which started as the favorite, was achieved “thanks to the mobilization of civil society,” estimated the number two in Thuringia, the Social Democrat Georg Maier. This election was a test at a time when large-scale demonstrations have been taking place for about two weeks against this party and its program, considered racist by its critics.

More than 800,000 people took to the streets over the weekend, mainly in Hamburg and Düsseldorf, to denounce the AfD and what they believe are threats to democracy, organizers said on Sunday. Last weekend, organizers estimated the number of participants at 1.4 million.

Eviction plan

This mobilization of civil society was triggered by press revelations that triggered an earthquake in Germany: at the end of last year, members of the AfD, an anti-migration and anti-system party, discussed a plan for the mass expulsion of foreigners and “unassimilated citizens”. A survey conducted by the Insa Institute during the first demonstrations recently showed a decline in voting intentions for the AfD to 21.5 percent compared to 23 percent previously.

The demonstrations “are having an impact,” said institute director Hermann Binkert in the Bild daily newspaper. The fact is that the AfD remains the second most popular party in Germany in the polls, behind the conservative opposition led by Social Democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The reason for this is the increase in immigration and the record-breaking unpopularity of the ruling coalition government.

According to the daily newspaper FAZ, between 130 and 150 new members join the right-wing extremist party every day, and the number of activists could rise from 40,000 to 60,000 members by the end of the year. “We have to face the facts: the evil genie is out of the bottle,” complained Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who had previously tried to downplay the party’s rise, to the daily newspaper “Die Zeit” this week.

Worries in the economic world

The AfD is “a danger to democracy” and its entry into the jurisdiction “would ruin Germany economically,” warned liberal Finance Minister Christian Lindner on Sunday. The business world also warns of the risks associated with enforcing the AfD's theses and emphasizes its need for foreign workers and international trade. The party had recently indicated that it wanted a referendum on leaving the EU.

“Only if people feel comfortable with us will they come and only then will we be sustainably attractive,” said Peter Adrian, President of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK). In this context, there are increasing voices calling for a cut in public funding for the AfD, especially since the party is in the crosshairs of the secret services. Its regional associations in Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt were placed under surveillance because of their positions, which were considered very radical.