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Upcoming State Elections in Germany: ‘AfD’ Extremists Might Win

In Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia, state elections are coming up. In two of those federal states, the radical right-wing AfD might turn out to be the strongest party. It would be the first time since Hitler’s NSDAP that the radical right wins in any German province. In spite of it all, the political Berlin is successfully distracting itself.

These days, Berlin is on vacation, including the Bundestag and part of the federal government. Before leaving the city, high-ranking officials and MPs were busy getting used to its new Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and saying goodbye to her predecessor Ursula von der Leyen who will become E.U. Commission President in November. Now they are discussing the implications of a horrific homicide in Frankfurt.

Trouble on the Horizon

While most ‘regular citizens’ are on vacation too, the upcoming state elections in three eastern federal states are looming on the horizon. One thing is certain: Whatever they might bring will not be good.

On September 1st, 2019, the radical right, meaning the ‘Alternative for Germany’ (AfD), might become the strongest party in Saxony, the largest province on the territory of the former GDR. The same might happen in Brandenburg, where state elections will take place on the same day. At least in Thuringia, where elections are scheduled for October 27th, things are looking a little better.

Andreas Kalbitz is one of the most extremist AfD personalities. Photo: ‘Professusductus’

During an election campaign event on Monday, Karsten Hilse, a former officer in the communist GDR’s ‘Volkspolizei’ who became a policeman in reunited Germany as well, and an MP for the AfD in 2017, said the AfD was the new major party. “This is something the politicians of the old parties will have to get used to.” The problem is that Hilse is right.

In Saxony and Brandenburg, xenophobic agitation, scandalous statements about recent German history and teaming up with neo Nazis at protests in Chemnitz and elsewhere lead to success. A few years back, ‘The Left’ was the protest party many Germans from Saxony and Brandenburg voted for. Now they are going for the opposite extreme.

Extremist AfD Leaders in Three Provinces

This is not just about the AfD possibly winning elections, but about the far right fraction within the far right party. In Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia, the AfD state associations are being lead by some of the most extremist party personalities:

  • Jörg Urban is chairman of the AfD Saxony. The engineer is known for racist remarks. He called asylum seekers “Messer-Marokkaner” (“Moroccans with knives”), who “do neither enrich the culture, nor are they skilled employees”. Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is interested in Urban. “With the help of reasonably thinking people we will overturn this regime as well”, he has said. By “regime” he meant the democratically elected federal government in Berlin.
  • Andreas Kalbitz (see photo above) heads the AfD in Brandenburg. Just a few years back, he wrote for extremist publications about an “ethnocide against the German people” and similar ‘subjects’. Until 2015, he headed the organization ‘Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte’ which was founded by the former ‘SS-Hauptsturmführer’ Waldemar Schütz. He was a big shot in the NPD, Germany’s modern day Nazi party. In 2007, Kalbitz took part in a camp organized by the neo Nazi organization ‘Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend’. It was banned two years later.
  • Björn Höcke, the AfD’s chairman in Thuringia, is another representative of the extremist fraction within his far-right party. “Christianity and Judaism are an antagonism”, he said in 2015. “That is why I have no use for the expression Western Christian-Jewish civilization”. His followers, who applauded, understood exactly what he meant. Höcke is also known for using terms spread by the original Nazis in the 1930s, including “traitor of the people”.

Germany is not prepared for doomsday when people like Höcke, Kalbitz or Urban might become governors, at least in theory. But, judging from the polls, this will only happen if another party agrees to become the AfD’s coalition partner in any of those three provinces. Because of strict rules imposed by those parties in this regard, this seems unlikely.

Anti-AfD Coalitions Likely

Another scenario is more probable: Most or all other parties, even unlikely coalition partners, might team up for unconventional state governments, in order to avoid giving the AfD the opportunity to rule. The big question is what all those AfD voters will say or do about steps of that kind.

The events in Chemnitz in January of 2019, when Nazis and AfD members teamed up in order to take part in big protests against migration after a murder in the city, show what the far right can do.

So far, all strategies against right-wing extremism have failed. Those included challenging and convincing AfD representatives and their voters in discussions and teaching more about recent German history and hatred at schools. It looks like a quarter of all voters in Saxony and Brandenburg, many of whom lived under a communist dictatorship, will go for another kind of extremism.

Wishful Thinking Versus Reality

There is one hope the AfD’s opponents have: Over time, this party might get rid of itself or at least shrink substantially, because the bigger it gets in Germany’s east, the more its representative know they need to refrain from using extremist Nazi language. And the more they refrain from it, the more radical voters might feel disappointed.

In Berlin and Brussels, a similar effect might be triggered by the AfD leadership. Its members in the Berlin Bundestag and in the European Parliament in Brussels seem to be getting so comfortable with their pay, their staff and other conveniences that they might forget about fighting Europe or democracy itself. Voters could notice and turn away from them.

Wishful thinking aside, the situation is serious. In the latest polls, the AfD in Brandenburg is at 19 percent, just like the center-left SPD, and one percentage point ahead of the conservative CDU. In Saxony, things look worse: Here, the AfD is at 26 percent, just like the CDU, while the SPD shrunk to 9 percent.