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6 Feb, 2020 13:07

German politicians can heckle the AfD as Nazis, or they can work with them… not both

German politicians can heckle the AfD as Nazis, or they can work with them… not both

I’ve been a politician. I know hypocrisy when I see it. And as German lawmakers in Thuringia broke their self-imposed ‘taboo’ around the AfD at the recent election in the state, the whole thing reeks of hypocrisy.

For years, German politicians have ostracized the right-wing ‘Alternative Fur Deutschland’ (AfD) party. There was even a court case after their leader was satirically described as a Nazi. So, it came as a huge surprise for Thuringia when Thomas Kemmerich, a politician from FDP, a liberal party with a meagre five seats in the local parliament, rode AfD votes to become the new state premier.

Then, the centre-right parties denied working with the AfD. Frankly, I find that difficult to believe. If there’s one thing politicians know how to do, it’s count the votes. If you know that you’re nearly 20 votes behind, and the AfD have 21 seats, you know perfectly well that your only hope of winning is if they vote for your candidate. Their denials seem somewhat ridiculous.

But let’s be charitable. Let’s suppose that this somehow did occur by accident. In that case, the problem is that the other parties denied reality. For years German politics has basically pretended that the AfD, and AfD votes and voters, don’t exist. When the AfD had almost one quarter of all the seats, this policy seems like a recipe for disaster, there’s a limit to the size of elephant that you can squeeze into a room without consequences when nobody mentions it.

In a proportional election system, it’s a fact of life that you’ll get assorted so-called ‘far left’ and ‘far right’ (don’t get me started on the problems with those labels) parties elected. There were 29 ‘far-left’ and 21 ‘far-right’ members within a parliament of 90. If you pretend that one party doesn’t exist, then from time to time they will be kingmakers.

German politicians can heckle the AfD as Nazis, or they can work with them… not both

Worse still, you’re disenfranchising a huge number of voters; under those electoral systems, the whole idea is to grant representation to a complete range of views. Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly reasonable to criticise the AfD for all kinds of things. It has, to its credit, expelled some of those who have expressed particularly concerning views. Yet, there have been eye-wateringly awful anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim comments made by its members without action being taken. I’m no cheerleader for the AfD.

You don’t have to like the AfD, though, to recognise that they exist and they’re a part of Germany’s political landscape. To recognise that there are people with genuine concerns who vote for them.

The real hypocrisy is that they don’t treat other parties in the same way. The German Green Party once called for the legalisation of paedophilia, and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, one of their more recent leaders, made sickening comments about children which really shouldn’t be repeated.

The party which had been expected to gain the premiership in Thuringia was Die Linke, a far-left party with Communist links and factions within it. The German political establishment seems to have no problem with working together with communists, either.

If German politicians treated the Greens and Die Linke like the AfD, then at least they’d be consistent. But they’ve known for years that they’d be denying reality to do so. They recognise that they can’t put their fingers in their ears, close their eyes and hope they’ll go away.

Acting like the AfD doesn’t exist is hardly the way to bring a country back together. It’s going to lead to times like this, and for all the outrage from the German political establishment about this, the actual net effect was to replace the ‘far left’ Die Linke candidate with a centrist, liberal, pro-business FDP candidate. Hardly a near-miss for extremism. More likely, it’s left-wingers seizing every opportunity to accuse everyone else of being in bed with the ‘far-right’. The cold fact of the matter is, though, that the Left in Thuringia didn’t have the votes to win. Now they’re complaining that the rest didn’t just give them a free pass.

Also on rt.com ‘Taboo gone’: Ruling coalition in Germany shaken by fresh crisis after Merkel’s CDU breaks ranks on not cooperating with AfD

Anti-establishment sentiment has been on the rise across Europe for years. Whether it’s left-wing, right-wing or centrist, there’s been a backlash against traditional politicians everywhere. The ‘people versus politicians’ mindset has taken hold in many different ways across the continent, and nowhere is this better seen than in Thuringia.

Traditional politicians should be asking fundamental questions about why they’re losing support, and how they’re failing to connect with the general public. Instead, we’re seeing more of the same old politics, more political games, instead of learning lessons.

Politicians who fail to connect with the public because they daren’t communicate in clear terms, with straight-forward language explaining what they believe, will only make this chasm worse. Europe is still trending towards a rejection of political elites, and to chaos. The German governing centre-right CDU party is calling for fresh elections in Thuringia. They think they can put an end to the chaos, if only the public will do exactly what they’re told at the ballot box.

Their problem? When mainstream political parties demonstrate such hypocrisy, the main beneficiaries are on the periphery. There’s absolutely no guarantee that a fresh election in Thuringia wouldn’t result in an even higher vote for the so-called ‘far left’ and ‘far right’ parties. After all, the public have very little patience with political posturing. Whether it’s Britain or Germany, Poland or Portugal, people want their concerns to be taken seriously. They don’t want politicians using insults rather than listening to people and coming up with logical, common-sense responses.

I’m fed up with the hypocrisy. It’s time for German politicians to stop denying reality. The AfD won’t go away just because they want it to.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.