German association leaders tell mainstream parties to up their game amid voting surge toward right-wing AfD

“We need to engage much more with dissatisfied citizens,” one association president said

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Die Welt
An election campaign poster of far-right AfD candidate Robert Sesselmann remains on a street at the outskirts of the small city Sonneberg in the German federal state Thuringia, Wednesday, July 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

German business associations are concerned at the meteoric rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which for months now has consistently been polling higher than the governing SPD and the Green party.

“We need to engage much more with dissatisfied citizens,” the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) told German newspaper Die Welt.

In view of the AfD’s popularity, Germany’s employers and the skilled trades are urging the other parties to pursue policies to attract those disillusioned with modern society and return them to the center ground. “The AfD’s good polling numbers shake me personally and also as an entrepreneur,” BDA President Rainer Dulger told the German Press Agency.

President of the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH) Jörg Dittrich told the agency that “democracy, freedom and the rule of law are non-negotiable principles. Individual parties on the fringes should not distract us from keeping these fundamentals of our coexistence at the center of our actions.”

“We need to engage much more with dissatisfied citizens,” Dulger added. Only very few voters find the AfD’s program exciting, he said. “The AfD is anti-European – that should actually scare off many people.”

When it comes to climate protection, transport, and migration, the AfD makes an attractive proposition for conservatives averse to the level of change pursued by progressive, liberal administrations in recent times. For example, the party rejects the expansion of wind energy and doubts “that climate change is predominantly man-made.” The party is classified by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution as a suspected right-wing extremist group, a slur that is becoming less effective as the party’s popularity grows.

“My perception is that there are a lot of protest voters out there, people who are disillusioned with the supposed political establishment,” Dulger said. When it comes to the question of how to get those voters back, he said he still has a lot of faith in the governing SPD, FDP and the opposition CDU/CSU.
“There is still a lot of room for improvement.”

What is also needed, he said, are good, efficient policies in terms of craftsmanship. “And there, the traffic light coalition has unfortunately shown clear deficits this year. There is still a lot of room for improvement,” said Dulger.

Upheaval generates fear, and worrying about the future can lead to anger and protest voting behavior, Dittrich added. “If those with political responsibility in such a mixed situation do not succeed in showing ways to cope with these changes, then we will see that political fringes are gaining strength,” he warned.

But they need concepts that can be implemented in practice, he added. “It’s about not overwhelming people on the way to political goals.”

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