Far-right party likened to Nazis to shake
up German parliament
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[September 18, 2017]
By Michelle Martin
FRANKFURT AN DER ODER, Germany (Reuters) -
The first far-right party set to enter Germany's parliament for more
than a half a century says it will press for Chancellor Angela Merkel to
be "severely punished" for opening the door to refugees and migrants.
The Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has also called for Germany's
immigration minister to be "disposed of" in Turkey where her parents
come from, could become the third largest party with up to 12 percent of
the vote on Sept. 24, polls show.
That is far less than similar movements in other European countries - in
France far-right leader Marine Le Pen won 34 percent of the vote in May
and in the Netherlands far-rightist Geert Wilders scored 13 percent in a
But the prospect of a party that the foreign minister has compared with
the Nazis entering the heart of German democracy is unnerving the other
parties. They all refuse to work with the AfD and no one wants to sit
next to them in parliament.
Leading AfD candidate Alexander Gauland denies they are Nazis, saying
others only use the term because of the party's popularity. It has won
support with calls for Germany to shut its borders immediately,
introduce a minimum quota for deportations and stop refugees bringing
their families here.
"We're gradually becoming foreigners in our own country," Gauland told
an election rally in the Polish border city of Frankfurt an der Oder.
A song with the lyrics "we'll bring happiness back to your homeland"
blared out of a blue campaign bus and the 76-year-old lawyer said
Germany belonged to the Germans, Islam had no place here and the migrant
influx would make everyone worse off.
Gauland provoked outrage for saying at another event that Germans should
no longer be reproached with the Nazi past and they should take pride in
what their soldiers achieved during World War One and Two.
The Nazis ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, during which time they killed
6 million Jews in the Holocaust and invaded countries across Europe.
The AfD could end up as the biggest opposition force in the national
assembly if there is a re-run of the current coalition of Merkel's
conservatives and Social Democrats (SPD) -- one of the most likely
That would mean it would chair the powerful budget committee and open
the general debate during budget consultations, giving prominence to its
alternatives to government policies.
Georg Pazderski, a member of the AfD's executive board, told Reuters his
party would use parliamentary speeches to draw attention to the cost of
the migrant crisis, troubles in the euro zone - which the AfD wants
Germany to leave - and problems related to the European Union.
"We'll have a voice when we're in parliament," he said. "We won't be an
He expects other parties will shun the AfD for a year or two but
ultimately work with it, pointing to the regional assembly in the
eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, where the AfD and Merkel's Christian
Democrats voted to set up a committee to investigate left-wing
Gauland told Reuters the AfD would call for a committee to investigate
the chancellor after entering parliament: "We want Ms Merkel's policy of
bringing 1 million people into this country to be investigated and we
want her to be severely punished for that."
[to top of second column]
Alexander Gauland of Germany's far-right Alternative for Deutschland
(AfD) is seen during a campaign in Pforzheim, Germany September 6,
2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo
SUITS, NOT SKINHEADS
MPs have already changed the qualification for the ceremonial post
of doyen of parliament to the longest-serving MP rather than the
oldest, likely to have been an AfD member.
Sahra Wagenknecht, top candidate of the radical Left party, told
Reuters it was important to look at individuals for committees but
added: "I won't elect any AfD member who belongs to Bjoern Hoecke's
wing and who really represents Nazi views into any position of
Hoecke has denied that Adolf Hitler was "absolutely evil", described
Berlin's Holocaust Memorial as a "monument of shame" and demanded a
"180 degree turnaround" in the way Germany seeks to atone for Nazi
The justice minister said some of the AfD's program like its demand
to ban minarets is unconstitutional.
Alexander Hensel, who studied the AfD's role in regional parliaments
for the Otto Brenner Foundation, said debates in state assemblies
had become more polarized since the AfD arrived and some other MPs
would not shake hands with the newcomers.
"The AfD's aggressive right-wing positions have intensified the
debates while the tone and way people deal with each other in
parliament has become noticeably rougher due to the AfD's tough
rhetoric and targeted provocations," he said.
Unlike previous right-wing movements in Germany the AfD - founded in
2013 by an anti-euro group of academics - has become socially
acceptable so radicalized people from the middle class feel able to
vote for it alongside classic radical right-wing voters, said
Manfred Guellner, head of Forsa polling institute.
"You don't vote for skinheads but you can vote for professors in
suits," said Guellner, referring to the likes of Gauland, who tends
to wear tweed jackets.
The AfD is unlikely to gain much more support though, said Jackson
Janes, president of the American Institute for Contemporary German
Studies, predicting worsening infighting over whether to aim for
government or stay in opposition.
"They'll add to the yelling and screaming in the Bundestag," he
said, but added: "I don't see them spreading like a cancer through
(additional reporting by Matthias Sobolewski and Andrea Shalal;
Writing by Michelle Martin; editing by Philippa Fletcher)
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