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September 03, 2018

Is the AfD an extremist party? Of course it is. Why do you ask?

The big political issue in Germany right now are the recurring Neo-Nazi marches in the east German city of Chemnitz. These were triggered by the murder of a young man by two asylum seekers. The marches are supported by the AfD and Pegida, an anti-immigrant movement, and turned violent leaving nine people injured. What has become obvious to many Germans during the last ten days is the sight of senior AfD politicians mixing with, and encouraging, neo-Nazis. 

The discussion in the German press is now whether to put the AfD under observation from the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. It is interesting to see the dividing lines in this debate. The SPD demands it, as do several CDU politicians. One CDU MP is quoted as saying it has become increasingly clear that the violent demonstrations are not the work of individuals but of the AfD as a whole, as the party is becoming more extremist. Volker Kauder, the CDU/CSU leader in the Bundestag, said the AfD wants to attack the state. But Horst Seehofer, interior minister and CSU chief, said the conditions for a formal supervision of the AfD were not given. The issue of how to confront the AfD is becoming another dividing line in the coalition. 

This discussion also shows that the categorisation of the AfD as a populist party is plainly wrong. The AfD is an old-fashioned right-wing extremist party. There are differences with its predecessors, like the NPD, and with right-wing parties in other countries but, as Wolfgang Münchau argues in the FT, the issue of immigration unites them all as they prepare to form a coalition after the 2019 European elections. Herein also lies the real significance of the Salvini-Orbán meeting last week. The anti-European party groups will, of course, not achieve a majority of their own, but the more important question is whether they can form a cross-party anti-immigration coalition, one that reaches deep into the EPP. Munchau’s conclusion is that such a coalition would have a chance in the elections.

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