It’s easy to see that the 2017 German election was a historic one.
While Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, Christian Democratic Union, may have scored the majority of seats to secure a fourth term in office, it is the far-right party, Alternative für Deutschland (AFD), whom everyone is chattering about.
At last week’s exit polls (Sep 25), they secured 12.6 per cent of the votes and will enter Bundestag with nearly 100 seats in parliament.
This makes them the first nationalist, far-right party to occupy Bundestag since World War II.
The party specifically takes an anti-immigration and anti-islamic view. Throughout their campaign, they professed their frustration for the large influx of asylum seekers, and the security issues that came with them (i.e. increasing crime rates).
They urged voters to ride against the tide of “political correctness” and encouraged Germans to feel pride for the country’s achievements in both the First and Second World Wars.
And it is clear their rhetoric resonated with a large number of voters.
Despite winning the election, Chancellor Merkel’s party achieved their worst result, since 1949.
Her main adversary, Martin Schulz, from the Social Democrats, fared no better and led his party to their worst result ever, since the founding of the German Federal Republic.
Making sense of AFD’s success
The first of many reasons for AFD’s success is their dominant online presence.
With the help of a Texas political strategy firm, they were headstrong in using aggressive tactics which critics say were uncharacteristic of German politics.
Through acts of provocation and controversy, they managed to keep themselves in the headlines to ensure ample media coverage.
This included an instance when one of their core members, Alice Weidel, marched out of a live, public debate after claiming that she was treated unfairly.
This theme of victimhood continued, and the AFD repeatedly portrayed themselves as victims of the political establishment and mainstream media.
Their discourse of populism is emphasised regularly, and they claimed to be underdogs and fighters for the people.
In a nutshell, the AFD capitalized on the growing unhappiness that voters had towards the establishment and their distaste for voting in binary (a political scenario where most people voted for one of two major parties – i.e. Republican/Democrat or PAP/Worker’s Party).
The general resentment the broader public has towards the establishment and a growing desire to vote independent are universal trends.
And these trends have been brought into fruition already.
The AFD’s discourses of populism, anti-establishment and anti-immigration sentiments are recurring themes of U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign.
And on the same ominous vein, famed Youtube channel, Ted Ed, released a video in July 2016, drawing parallels between Trump’s campaign and that of Hitler’s.
Fast forward to present day, we see the emergence of said themes in Germany’s very own backyard yet again, some 85 years later.
As Germany moves on from its elections, the Social Democrats have revealed they will not be forming a coalition with Merkel.
As such, Merkel is predicted to build a new coalition with the Liberals and Greens.
As for the AFD, its leader Alice Weidel has announced that she will be requesting for a public inquiry against Merkel, to investigate potential law violations during the immigration crisis.
Yet, as AFD celebrates their newfound success, one of their prominent figures, Frauke Petry, announced her departure from the party, explaining that she would be serving as an independent MP in Saxony (her constituency) instead.
A house divided
Amidst political uncertainty and divisive quarrels, perhaps only a party that listens and empathizes with the people can mend the fracture and bring unity to an otherwise disillusioned population.