The current governing parties in Germany – SPD (social democrats), the Greens, FDP (liberal party) – are currently at odds over everything (heating law, climate targets, support for families, etc.) and are accordingly perceived as weak and problematic. The AfD is presenting their far-right beliefs more and more openly. In an interview in September 2023 chairperson Alice Weidel portrays the liberation of Nazi Germany by the Allies as Germany’s defeat. The AfD-leader in Thuringia, Björn Höcke, called the inclusion of children with disabilities in schools an „ideological project“ from which the education system must be „liberated“ because it would not make „our students more capable“. National Socialists argued in a similar way, which led to euthanasia. Voters like it: the AfD is currently receiving top ratings in election trend polls – between 21 percent nationwide and 34 percent in Thuringia.
Since June 2023, there is also a first AfD district administrator (Landrat) in Thuringia – this is a position where the party can have an actual impact at society on federal state level. In 2024 there will be state elections in the eastern German states of Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg. The chances of the AfD becoming the strongest party in all these federal states are high, and the consequences for democratic civil society there will be massive.
The conservative CDU reacts – as always, although always unsuccessfully – with a shift to the right. This includes populist rumblings (Chairman Friedrich Merz: multicultural Berlin is a lesser version of Germany than a village in Bavaria), but also pushing through a law with AfD votes in Thuringia in September – something all democratic parties had previously ruled out.
Even without the AfD, far-right positions are becoming increasingly socially acceptable: for example, CSU, Bavaria’s conservative party, is in a coalition with the micro-party “Freie Wähler“ (Free Voters). It’s leader, Hubert Aiwanger, also deputy first minister and minster of the economy, allegedly painted swastikas on the walls of his school as a student and was possibly involved in the distribution of antisemitic leaflets as journalists recently revealed – yet the coalition remains in place. The next elections in Bavaria are on 8 October 2023. The approval for the „Free Voters“ has increased in election trend polls after the revelation (17 percent instead of 11 percent in 2018).
The far right is really having a field day and can expect a strong finish of 2023. There has to be still some hope that the democratic parties will find their footing before next year’s elections and will be able too present voters with a convincing reason to vote for democracy.