WHAT IS BEHIND THE FAR-RIGHT PARTY'S RISE IN GERMANY
Last Updated: 2017-09-26
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BERLIN, Sept 26 (NNN-Xinhua) -- Scoring the best result for a far-right movement in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Alternative fuer Deutschland party (AFD) will enter German parliament for the first time ever. Both domestic and external factors contributed to this rise, according to analysts.

From a poor 4.7 percent registered in the previous federal elections held in 2013, the AFD made a huge leap and reached 12.6 percent of the vote on Sunday. It gained more than 90 seats, becoming the third largest force in the Bundestag (lower house).

"From a domestic point of view, a major factor behind this result was the shift made by Angela Merkel's CDU towards the center of the political spectrum," Eleonora Poli, researcher on European integration and EU institutions with Italian Institute for International Affairs (IAI), told Xinhua.

"This was especially clear on issues such as immigration and welfare. Thus, German conservative voters were not able to identify themselves with the CDU's orientation anymore, and looked elsewhere."

The scholar added that shifting towards the political center can prove a double-edged sword, and not only for the German Conservatives or Social Democrats.

"When mainstream parties move towards the center -- regardless if they are leftist or conservative -- they partially lose their political identity. This trend has emerged not only in Germany, but in France and Italy as well," Poli said.

Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy's leading business daily, provided a similar analysis. "Extremism and old parties, Germany somatises Europe's malaises," it headlined on Monday.

"Big parties from center-left and center-right have lost in Germany, as they had in France and, up to some extent, in The Netherlands and even Britain," Angela Manganaro wrote on Il Sole.

"It is something we have seen already... A fractured 'old Europe' is now united through the same electoral setbacks, and Germany, which is Europe's guide, would represent them all."

Il Sole's analyst also noted that far-right AFD was able to mobilize those German citizens who were not used to vote anymore, as (U.S.) President Donald Trump did with some "white, weary, and angry Americans" in the U.S.

Now, the business daily warned, Germany may risk a "common illness": political instability.

Some global factors also affected the German campaign, according to Poli. "Several elements linked to globalization contributed to the rise of the far-right among voters," she explained.

"Most of all, some people's fear of losing national identity, combined with an increased perception of their social and economic vulnerability."

This mixture led a portion of electorate to opt for nationalist parties, and to hope for a return to the nation state, which however was "no longer a realistic perspective."

Despite such rise, though, the IAI researcher warned against overestimating AFD's performance, which was negative but not exceptional, if compared with other similar parties in Europe.

For example, Marine Le Pen's Front National reached the runoff in the French presidential election in May, while Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom drew over 13 percent of the vote in the Dutch elections in March.

"Of course, it is of a disquieting trend, but still limited: I would call it an alarm bell," Poli said.

"Yet, the risk of a further turn of the electorate towards the extreme right exists, if the parties now ruling in France, Germany, and other EU countries will fail to deliver the right policies, and to govern properly," she warned. -- NNN-XINHUA