It took a while till the right-ish wave hit Germany, but finally it’s there. The openly anti-migrant, anti-islamic, ‘anti-establishment’, anti-anything but truly conservative Alternative für Deutschland (‘Alternative for Germany’, a hilariously misleading name; Wikipedia/homepage in German naturally) runs from one great result to the next. And stirs up the political landscape of Germany. Germany is going Nazi again! Oh no.
Their best result was a 24% in Saxony-Anhalt in last year's state-parliament election, which translates to 14.5% of the electorate (272.496 votes). For those unfamiliar with German states: Saxony-Anhalt only exists because the Russians took over the East of Germany after WW II, their empire collapsed, and Helmut Kohl, then chancellor of Germany (West), promised them bananas, VCRs, and blühende Landschaften (flowering landscapes) in exchange for killing off their nascent independent democracy.
|Left: Kohl's campain 1998 for Germany (East), promising flowering landscapes. Right: Title of the Titanic [transl.: GDR-Gaby (17) in Luck (Germany-West): My first banana.] German voters wanted to belief long before the AfD was founded.|
And they got two-third of what der Dicke, Kohl's nom-de-guerre, promised (guess what was missing). Nearly three decades of stringent blühende Landschaften-politics later, Saxony-Anhalt is economically so desolate that native people move away, and immigrants try to get to any other place in Germany. De-populated land, little perspectives, and few aliens: the perfect ground for (right-wing) populistic parties. And nice parallel to the U.S., where you can become governor (e.g. Sarah Palin in Alaska), representative (e.g. Joe Barton in Texas or John Shimkus in Illinois), or senator (e.g. James Inhofe in Oklahoma) pretenting reality (provable facts) doesn't apply (two scary fun-links from 2015, before Trump ran for president: congressional climate deniers; embrace of ignorance). All these accredited lawmakers would, in Germany, only find a home in the AfD (possibly) or much more obscure and tiny communities (most EU countries are crazily "liberal", from a Mid-West and Confederate-South perspective). Like Trump and the other main Republican candidates for presidency. Meaning, they could not decide anything. [In Sweden and France, they probably would not find any political party hosting them; and even the Austrian FPÖ would be very reluctant to accomodate them.]
|Classification of the six parties in the new Bundestag by the Political Compass along a social (libertarian–authoritarian) and economic (left–right) axis. (In)famous historical persons and candidates in the U.S. 2016 presidential election have been added for orientation.|
How Germany works, no matter how many vote the AfDIn the 2017 election, the AfD, a neoliberal-authoritarian party, entered for the first time the Bundestag with 12.6% of the valid votes, as the 3rd strongest party. Less than their Swedish, French, and Austrian counterparts, but a net-increase of 89%, nearly doubling their votes four years ago. The only other party with a similar net-gains was the neoliberal original, the FDP (10.7%; +40% votes). More voters were also attracted by the (now) centrist Green Party (8.9%; +13% votes) and the Left Party (9.2%; +12% votes), occupying the political niche of the pre-Schröder SPD. The Volksparteien CDU/CSU and SPD lost about 16% of their electorate compared to four years ago.
|The recently elected Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament. So far, no new government coalition has formed, but Angela Merkel will likely be the next chancellor, possibly in coalition with the SPD, or a snap election will be called. See this post for a visualisation of policy similarity.|
Abbrev.: Linke = The Left [Wikipedia/EN-homepage], Tierschutz = Animal Protection Party [wp/hp], V3 = Vegan and Vegetarian Party [wp/hp], Grüne = The Greens [wp/hp], BGE = Basic Income Alliance (one-topic party, [wp/hp]), PARTEI = The Party, a satiric party founded by Titanic editors [wp/hp], PP = Pirate's Party [wp/hp], DiB = Democracy in Motion [GE-wp/hp], SPD = Social-Democratic Party of Germany [wp/hp], FDP = Free Democratic Party [wp/hp], CDU = Christian Democratic Union [wp/hp], FW = Free Voters [wp/hp], ÖDP = Ecologic-Democratic Party [wp/hp], CSU = Christian Social Union (Bavarian CDU counterpart; [wp/hp]), ADD = Alliance of German Democrats (German-AKP; [GE-wp/hp]), BP = Bavaria Party [wp/hp], DM = German Centre [GE-wp/hp], NPD = National-Democratic Party of Germany [wp/hp], AfD = Alliance for Germany.
Percentages fool about dimensions. Nearly 5.9 Mio Germans voted the AfD in the last election. Double-as-much as the FN got in France (first round), and nearly as much as the totality of Swedish and Austrian voters. But like Sweden and Austria, and in contrast to France, Germany has a proportional democracy, hence, typically relies on coalition governments. Since AfD and FDP won massively, and the CDU/CSU remains the strongest party, an ‘ultra-blue’ coalition would be the naturally choice. Particularly, since AfD, CDU and FDP favour economy over sociality, and AfD, CSU, and CDU are law-and-order parties, something which the FDP only opposes to attract liberals, but doesn't bother about in everyday politics since the days of Kohl.
But the AfD falls in the category spiel' nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern [transl.: ‘don't play with the dirty kids’]. So, no matter whether they get 5% or 25%, they will not be invited into government. The former boss of the social-democrats, Gabriel (his party, the SPD had a disastrous result), said in a recent interview: What makes him sad is that it’ll be the first time since 1945 the Nazis sit in the German parliament. A truly Trumpian claim: in fact, no AfD MP could be actively fascist, even their geriatric leader (formerly CDU) with the fitting name Gauland (Gau was the Reich's principal administration unit; Land means country in German) was just a toddler, when the war was over. A party like the AfD naturally attracts the Ewig-Gestrigen (ghosts of the persistent past). But it is scratch-new in contrast to its equally successful counterparts in Sweden (part 1), France (part 2) and Austria (next part of this post series), all of which started as receptacle for actual fascists and Nazis. As Die Anstalt, a monthly German political cabaret emission and must-see for any non-brain-death voter, pointed out in their brilliant post-election episode (I feel their suffering, too): The actual Nazis – including some war criminals too important (Werner-Braun-type) or not important enough for the Allies to prosecute and eliminate – filled the ranks of the liberals, the FDP, the conservatives, the CDU, some minor parties long gone and their electorate consumed by FDP, CDU and CSU, and, last but not least, could even be found in Gabriel’s very own SPD (but he’s too young to know; and ignorance is no shame anymore with Trump as 45th POTUS).
Nationalism and anti-sm is OK within Europe, but not within Germany ...Polititicians of the AfD may be loud, but they are not excessively dirty. Their chauvinism and anti-liberalism is only more visible, as they attract voters by openly stating what only was murmured in the CDU/CSU and FDP, during large phases of their post-war history. And even more than their Swedish, French and Austrian counterparts, they are 100% in-line with the anti-migrant, anti-islamic, anti-"establishment", anti-social policies and laissez-faire economics, Donald Trump (and other Republican candidates) promised when running for presidency (but can't deliever, the poor guy, lacking a Jovial parliamentary majority) and now is the ruler of the free world.
Aside the occassional Trumpian black-outs, the AfD is not as far away as the CDU/CSU wants from the clean conservatives (and quite exchangeable with the FDP, when it comes to economics).
The European home of the CDU/CSU is the European People’s Party, which collects the “centre-right” parties. Such as Orban’s Fidesz, the anti-liberal, anti-migrant and anti-EU (unless it comes to pocketing EU money) Hungarian ruling party. Another member of the Merkel's political club is the Spanish Partido Popular (PP), currently reigning the Kingdom of Spain, who formed as a home for Spanish fascists after Franco died (and a European pinnacle of corruption [NYT,Guardian, LaSemaine]). Until today, the PP ensures the catholic church's grip on Spanish politics; a church distinctly national-conservative and anti-liberal in contrast to the current pope. And a policy at odds with the shared European value to keep state (politics) and church (faith) separated.
|A network of political distances, based on the answers to the pre-election Wahl-O-Mat (the Jamaica-option is gone). Distance of AfD and FDP to CDU/CSU are likely overestimated, since the latter two left out several critical questions. |
... and no way out.Since marrying the AfD is a no-go, the other parties suffer and form painful coalitions that no-body wants. The ‘Jamaica coalition’ of CDU, CSU (the Bavarian CDU), FDP and Greens at a federal level just drowned, despite that the Greens were prepared to sink their social-minded pre-election promises to get a bit of power. They tried hard, but eventually the rum was finished, and reality stepped in, not to mention future opportunities for the FDP in the era after Mutti (Angela Merkel's nom-de-guerre). A tempting outlook possibly inspired by Jupiter’s takeover of France and Kurz’ run to victory in Austria. And since minority governments are unthinkable (because of the lesson learned from the failing of the Weimar Republic...as if modern Germany has anything in common with pre-fascistic Germany) and snap elections would make things worse for Angela and her, sorry, the SPD, the latter – forced into opposition by their new leader Schulz (an EU re-import, first in the history of German politics) right after election (dooms)day – now budges and bulges towards the ‘GroKo’ once again, the most unwanted ‘great coalition’. As in the most-recent state-parliament elections in Lower Saxony, were SPD and CDU were very quick to make a coalition, although pretending it cannot happen before the election. For the Bundes-SPD, the ‘GroKo’ with Merkel is a sure thing for digging its own grave.
The unthinkable alternative and it's possible consequencesAt federal level, as well as in most state parliaments, there would be majorities for ‘ultra-blue coalitions’ of CDU, FDP, and AfD, who could dedicate itself to:
- further deconstruction of the welfare state (nice German word: Sozialstaat) following the Anglosaxon example (since it works so well). Ironically, the fear of losing the social benefits (because of immigrants) is another driver to vote the AfD and alike;
- law-and-order and closed borders, since that saves us from terrorist attacks (see Las Vegas etc), rather than invest in better education here and there;
- and a little more, highly entertaining U.S.-style insanity in politics (see links below). Can't wait hearing an AfD minister's speech on chemtrails and how we can use brown coal (yes, high-tech super-economy Germany still digs for the really dirty stuff) to buffer sunlight exposure and heat the vineyards in spring (one aspect of "not-happening" climate change; very late frosts all over Europe and a weakening Gulf Stream [paper1][paper2]).
|A homely scene, late frosts are countered by placing large paraffin candles in the vineyards (Image-source: http://www.duda.news/welt/kerzen-im-weinberg-gegen-frost/)|
As a full-frontal European (and European Full Frontal fan) and left-libertarian (according to the Political Compass self-test) democrat, I’d say give the people what the people voted for. After many years of Angela, the Germans deserve it. She would probably not want to head a coalition of CDU/CSU, FDP and AfD (the Greens were the only party supporting her stand on migration and refugees) and be gone, making many happy. Alienation by Merkel's social-democratic and green attitudes was another reason for the over 2.5 Mio CDU/CSU voters to migrate to the AfD and FDP, the only two parties that can be considered winners in the last election. And, it is about time, being too long at power is always bad for democracy.
|The new (2017) homes of former CDU/CSU voters.|
Not shown the second-greatest foe, Death, to which the CDU/CSU lost 1.3 million former voters (6% of their 2013 electorate)
In case the AfD would decline (they announced partaking in four years, already), it would be clear even to their voters – well those suffering from at least mild forms of "liberal denial" – that voting them means voting the void. When the AfD would accept, there may be a re-election in less than four years, because the AfD would have split into bits and pieces (their 2017 front-runner, Frauke Petry, already made her own party, the "Blue Party" [wp/hp], motto: free and conservative). If you’re just anti, government is very tough (see The Donald and U.K.'s Brexiteers). Things would be back to normal: The nasty brownish and so visible stinch would be gone again. The real neo-Nazis would have to go back to their irrelevant parties (such as NPD, Die Rechte, etc) and the Salon-Nazis back into a properly conservative-again Union, which welcomed their (brain-)fathers and grand-fathers so warmly after 1945. And gone would probably also the politically superfluous FDP: do we really need a party protecting free economy in a country where the two largest “centre-left” (SPD) and “centre-right” (CDU/CSU) parties are already doing what the industry wants without hesitation, and at all administrational levels? Just recently, they – including a certain social-democrat worried about Nazis in the parliament named Gabriel – watered future EU legislation on reducing CO2 output to safe German big cars manufacturers from too much annoyance.
But maybe this is exactly the reason, why an ‘ultra-blue’ coalition or a minority government, following the Swedish example, is no option for Germany: the legislation passed in the Bundestag could reveal how much of the “extreme” AfD views are shared by the “democratic” parties. Or, worst case, the Bundestag would find majorities for actually good ideas, currently suppressed by no-matter-what government coalition because one partner forced its stupid agenda on the rest. Either way, there would be no excuses this time. And this runs the risk that the voter realises what he (rarely she) has done last election. Like the Austrians did the last time, they got their black-blue government (see upcoming part 4).
- Official page of the German parliament: https://www.bundestag.de/ (you can change the language to English, and French, best-friends-ever, and Arabic, best customers)
- German parties on Wikipedia (the English one): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_parties_in_Germany
- The page of the Federal Returning Officer [in German]: https://www.bundeswahlleiter.de/
- The newsticker of the Titanic [in German]: http://www.titanic-magazin.de/newsticker; very informative, too: Martin Sonneborn's (MEP) Bericht aus Brüssel reporting the everyday lunacy in our (effectively inoperative) EU parliament (still happy, 184709 voters send him there, and the Federal Constitutional Court, out-ruling the 5% threshold for EU elections)
- Die Anstalt, a German TV emmission [Info for expats and German-capable: it's not geo-blocked] and must for any politically informed German: https://www.zdf.de/comedy/die-anstalt (wonder how long they can stand the frustration that people laugh and applaud, but don't remember anything next time in the voting booth)
- Quer, a Bavarian TV emmission, equally informative and also not geo-blocked: Homepage, YouTube channel (also informative and entertaining for non-Bavarians like me)
- Psiram.com, a collection of irrational belief systems including some advocated by elected U.S. lawmakers and re-tweeted by the sitting U.S. president; mostly in German with a focus on German irrationality, but some articles have been translated in English, e.g. on the pseudo-science German New Medicine, French, Italian, and Russian
- The Wikipedia [EN/DE/FR/SV] and Psiram articles [DE only] on Reichsbürgerbewegung and Kommissarische Reichsregierung, probably the closest thing Germany has regarding reality-free political movements