EU Internal Policy

Broken Germany: How Merkel’s wooing of migrants has allowed far-right resurgence

ANGELA Merkel is reeling after damning election results have highlighted how far right groups have thrived under her leadership.

Frauke Petry and Angela MerkelGETTY

Angela Merkel’s popularity is waning in contrast to thr AfD’s Frauke Petry

The German chancellor‘s conservatives suffered their second electoral blow in two weeks, slumping to their lowest level since reunification in 1990 in a Berlin city vote in which citizens roundly rejected her open-door refugee policy.Voters turned to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), which with 12.2 percent of the vote, will enter its tenth regional assembly of the country’s 16 states.

Projections put Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) on 18 percent, down from 23.3 percent in the last election in Berlin in 2011.

The Social Democrats (SPD) also lost support, falling to 22.4 percent from 28.3 percent, but remained the biggest party and are likely to ditch the CDU from their current coalition.The AfD has campaigned heavily on the migrant issue, raising the issue of voters’ fears about the integration of the roughly one million migrants who entered Germany last year.

And Michael Müller, mayor of Berlin, had warned ahead of the elections that if the AfD achieved double figures, it would be seen as a “return of the right-wing” in Germany.

Professor Matthew Feldman, a leading expert on right-wing extremism, fascism and anti-fascism at Teeside University, said it was concerning that the far right AfD had risen to such prominence in just over three years.He said: “By ditching the more explicit links with the past – biological racism and anti-Semitism in particular – the far-right has been able to cast themselves as reasonable rather than extreme.

“There is a ‘demand’ for far-right intolerance in Germany, as there is in France, Italy and Britain – among many others in Europe.

“Scholars continue to debate the why’s of this phenomena, with some looking at economics and inequalities; others racism and xenophobia.

Frauke PetryGETTY

Frauke Petry

“All surely play a role, as do governmental policies.“I think a ‘repackaging’ of the far-right message is also significant, and to some degree veils bigoted sentiments in ‘mainstream’ language

“AfD has been explicit in targeting Muslims in Germany, and more recently, refugees.

“In fact, on January 2016 the leader of AfD, Frauke Petry, responded to the question ‘What should we do about illegal migrants coming to Germany?’, with this answer: ‘Shoot them’.

“Such flirting – even rhetorically – with political violence is a hallmark of the far-right. More recently, so it what scholars have called ‘mainstreaming’ extremist discourse.

Angela MerkelGETTY

Angela Merkel is being criticised foe her stance on migration

“Here too AfD seems to fit the bill, not only in their rhetoric on Muslims and people fleeing appalling warfare in North Africa and the Middle East, but precisely in their use of language.“Earlier this month, Petry called for rehabilitating the word völkisch’ with its clear connotations of Nazi Germany, for example the infamous slogan: Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Furhrer.

A woman is welcomed at a German migration centreGETTY

A woman is welcomed at a German migration centre

“Far-right parties in Europe today have often tried to ‘normalise’ the pre-1945 fascist parties and policies of the past, from Hungary’s Jobbik and Fidesz erecting statues to Horthy to founder of the Front National, Jean-Marie Le Pen, calling the Holocaust a mere detail of WWII – all in the last few years.“These initiatives, alongside undoubted electoral success for AfD and others, suggests the conclusion that the far-right – in a new form from the past, necessarily – is indeed gaining ground in Europe.“

A march by German far-Right group PegidaGETTY

A march by German far-Right group Pegida

The election results come just days after a vicious fight broke out between around 20 young asylum seekers and 100 angry locals, who were thought to be Neo-Nazis in Bautzen, a town in eastern Germany.According to reports, migrants hurled bottles and wooden stakes at police officers.

A group of 10 police officers were forced to use batons and pepper spray to defend themselves.

Pegida, a German far-right group, has also been joined on its marches in German by tens of thousands of people objecting to the coutry’s stance on migrants.

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