EU Skepticism Still Growing in Germany
The recent state election in the Free State of Saxony already indicated as much: EU-skepticism is alive and well in Germany, even with the imminent threat from the EU’s sovereign debt and banking crisis on the back-burner.
This has now been further confirmed by the release of an Emnid survey (Emnid is a large polling company in Germany, comparable to Gallup), according to which 22% of German voters can imagine voting for the AdF (“Alternative für Deutschland”), an EU-skeptic party formed in February of 2013).
Note here that “could imagine to vote for” is not the same as “would vote for if the election were held tomorrow” – based on that, the party would receive only 6% of the nation-wide vote, which is however a clear improvement over the actual result in the last parliamentary election. Note that the party received 7% in the European election, which was a quite respectable, though not sensational result.
European election 2014: the AfD received a respectable 7% of the vote
If the party plays its cards right, it could be well on the way to transforming itself from a much derided fringe party into a major political force. In many ways, its ascent seems comparable to that of UKIP in the UK. Given that the survey was concluded on September 3, the most recent ECB decision hasn’t influenced the result, so it should be expected that support for the AfD has in the meantime solidified further. Apart from a handful of ivory tower Keynesian economists, no-one in Germany is in favor of more money printing by the ECB.
As in many other countries, the major hot button issue is unfortunately the populist topic of immigration restrictions, something the party is likely to emphasize in light of its popularity with voters. However, other major planks of the party’s program apparently also resonate with German voters. Here is an overview of some of the survey responses regarding prominent AfD issues and the party itself:
83% of respondents agree that immigration must be subject to strict rules
45% of respondents agree that as a general principle, families with three children (which the AfD propagates) would be a good thing
33% believe Germany doesn’t need the euro
23% expect the party to play an important role in German politics in the future, 71% still disagree with that notion
64% disagree with the assertion that the AfD is a far-right party, 17% agree.
To the above we would note that the while the AfD certainly represents “bourgeois” viewpoints, it is definitely not a “far right” party. The mainstream press tried to stick it with this label based on its stance on immigration, a fate also suffered by UKIP. However, there is a strong qualitative difference between parties like UKIP and the AfD and France’s Front National (FN), which can genuinely be classified as being “far right”.
It is noteworthy in this context that UKIP refused to join a coalition with the FN in Brussels, in spite of the fact that this potentially meant passing on millions in euros in funding (however, UKIP eventually managed to form the Europe of Freedom and Democracy faction, by snatching a defector from the FN). The AfD likewise is not in the same faction in Brussels as the FN, but is part of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, which includes the UK’s Tories (incidentally, as Mish reports, the FN’s leader Marine Le Pen would win in a presidential election against Mr. Hollande if it were held today).
There is considerable political push-back against the EU’s centralizers now. Even if EU-skeptical parties are unable to gain majorities, their growing support is likely to influence the policies of mainstream parties. Established parties must fear that they their support will erode more and more. In Germany, the once strong social democrats (SPD) have already become a smallish party (recent survey see its support crumbling ever further), while the FDP (liberals), a small party that has been a mainstay of post WW 2 Germany, has almost been wiped out. Whether this will lastingly influence the centralization process and weaken the powers of Brussels remains to be seen, but it is a start.
AfD leader Bernd Lücke in front of an election poster. The inscription reads: “Draghi gambles, you pay”.
(Photo credit: DPA)
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