‘A real democratic problem’ – German parliament president fears for democracy due to AfD’s poll strength

Germany will hold regional elections in three states next September

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: John Cody
President of the Bundestag Barbel Bas delivers her speech at the Sorbonne University. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Pool)

Elections will be held in eastern Germany in 2024 and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) is currently well ahead in the polls, which according to Bundestag President Bärbel Bas, is concerning for democracy and political stability.

“When I look at the current polls, I am particularly concerned about the state elections in September 2024 in three eastern German states,” the SPD politician told the AFP news agency. “It could actually be difficult to form stable governments there.”

Her SPD party is currently sitting well below the AfD in national polling, and in most eastern states, the AfD’s lead over the SPD is enormous. Bas said that “a real democratic problem” is looming, since it will be difficult for Germany’s establishment parties to form ruling coalitions in states like Saxony, Thuringia, and Brandenburg — three states where AfD sits at the top of the polls with results over 30 percent.

All of Germany’s main parties have vowed to never work with the AfD, leading for calls for minority governments to form in all three of these eastern states after elections. However, Bas said that she is skeptical of how well these governments could function.

“A minority government is already challenging if there are only constructive parliamentary groups in parliament,” she told AFP. “It becomes all the more difficult when there are forces that are always actively working against it — then there is a real threat of a democratic problem.”

“Populists are on the rise in many countries, which worries me – for our democracy as a whole,” she said. “There are also forces that want to completely abolish our democracy. That should be clear to everyone.”

Is a coalition with the AfD possible in the east?

It should also be noted that the so-called “firewall” between the AfD and the other parties is showing signs of breaking down in the state of Thuringia. In that state, the SPD leads a minority government, but in reality, the CDU and FDP could lead the government there if they chose to work with the AfD.

Now, the three parties are increasingly cooperating on laws and voting together in unison, with the latest example being a law introduced by the FDP to make it more difficult to build wind turbines in Thuringia’s forests, which is designed to block developers from cutting down trees to build wind farms. The AfD and CDU voted in union on the new bill.

Thuringia’s Interior Minister Georg Maier (SPD) blasted the FDP and CDU over the new law, saying that these two parties once again showed that “they would not hesitate to make a pact with the AfD in order to pursue cheap populism.” He claims that the two parties being so willing to work with the AfD is a threat due to the AfD’s strength after next year’s state elections.

Undoubtedly, there will be a temptation for many within the CDU and FDP to form coalitions with the AfD, especially when there are many ideological similarities between the parties on a range of issues. However, there are also major elements of both parties that are vehemently opposed to the AfD, which will make any potential coalition extremely difficult to actually manifest.

In fact, many of Germany’s political class, seeing the AfD as a threat to their power, are calling for the party to be banned. Bas alludes to the AfD as being “undemocratic” even though the party is calling for even more democracy, including nationwide referendums such as seen in Switzerland. Furthermore, Germany’s AfD faces police surveillance from authorities typically seen in authoritarian nations, with the country’s top domestic intelligence agency, the Office of the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), labeling the AfD as a “confirmed right-wing extremist threat” in a number of states, which allows the BfV to monitor all communications of the AfD members in those states without a warrant.

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