Germany: the scale has officially tipped towards the right

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The GIMUN 2016 Annual Conference, held from March 7th to 11th at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, gathered around 200 students for a model UN. Yes, it was a month ago, but it turns out the GIMUN Chronicles journalists had not said their last word! When the conference ended, they still had a few more articles left for us…

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Michelle Bognuda

About one month ago, Germany had an important weekend. Three state elections happened, and now that the results are published, it is official: radical right-wing parties are gaining more and more power. On March 13th, the states of Saxony-Anhalt, Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg cast their ballots. This is an important test for Angela Merkel and her Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (“Christian Democratic Union of Germany”, CDU) party, because, even though the three states have different political scenarios, polls predicted that radically right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (“Alternative for Germany”, AfD) would have had the best of the race. And the polls were right, because although this party did not get the majority of the vote, it did win a spot in all three state parliaments. However, the importance of these state elections goes beyond the results in their own land. In fact, this was the first time that Germany had been called to the urns since August 2015, and therefore since the refugee crisis took off. In the last few months, immigrants have been showcased on all types of media outlets, and it is no surprise that they are one of the main subjects that politicians used to state their opinion in these local elections.

As I said, the most “stylish” parties in Germany right now are mainly right-wing ones, but let’s find out a little bit more about them. Chancellor Merkel’s party, the CDU, is liberal-conservative, therefore it can be placed, on the political spectrum, in the center-right slot. It forms a union with the Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern (“Christian Social Union in Bavaria”, CSU). However, it does not agree entirely with the CSU’s ideas. The latter, led by Horst Seehofer, is to be placed more to the right than its sister party CDU. In fact, it is more conservative than Merkel’s party regarding social matters; for instance, Seehofer wants to close German borders and set up a maximal number of refugees per year that can enter his country. Since the 2013 Bavarian state election, CSU governs with absolute majority in its state.

However, along with these more historical parties, younger ones are on the rise. And they are even more to the right. The Alternative für Deutschland (“Alternative for Germany”, AfD), is a nationalist and Eurosceptic party founded in 2013. In its first election, it barely missed the 5% electoral threshold needed to have a seat in the Bundestag (the German national Parliament), but in the next year’s election it won 7.1%. Considering the results of the most recent elections, it is safe to say that AfD’s momentum is on the rise. Another young party is PEGIDA, the Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (“Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West”). It is a far-right movement, founded in 2014, which promotes anti-Islamic political positions. The party pushes for more restrictive immigration rules, particularly for Muslims, who, according to them, refuse to integrate. The movement opposes itself to NATO and EU memberships and supports relations with Russia. For example, one of its slogans is “Putin, hilf uns, rette uns!” (“Putin, help us, save us!”). The party started as a protest against radical Islamism, and, to this day, roams the German streets once a week as a protest against Islam in general. With the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, and with the current European migrant crisis, this political movement is, as AfD, growing.

One would ask why radical right-wing parties such as these seem to be the German citizens’ ticket out of their current situation of distress. Here is what Elisa, a 24 year old Communications student at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, has to say about it. «There is a general feeling of disappointment towards traditional politicians like Angela Merkel. As a consequence, radically right-wing political parties are gaining more and more importance. For instance, every Monday night PEGIDA parades in the streets. People are not necessarily outspokenly for the extreme right, but, since they are distressed, AfD and PEGIDA are getting a much bigger chance to be heard.»

As Michael Møller, the director general of UNOG, said at this year’s GIMUN Annual Conference opening ceremony, «it is not the first time that Europe is faced with a strong wave of immigrants, and studies have shown that immigration actually helps society and economics on the long haul. We need to stop trying to fix the problems of the future with tools of the past». Well, shouldn’t xenophobia be a tool of the past? Just some food for thought.

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