Germany’s election result, which catapulted the rightwing, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to the third place in the Bundestag has shown that no country is immune from the rise of populism.
The march of populist parties is a real cause for concern everywhere, but nowhere more so than in Germany.
For a far-right party to gain seats and a strong voice in mainstream politics for the first time since the defeat of the Nazis in 1945, is truly alarming for many in Germany and beyond.
Not surprisingly, congratulations for the AfD’s election victory came only from similarly far-right, and the equally dubious, French National Front and Britain’s UKIP.
With her Cristian Democrat CDU/Christian Social Union alliance, having polled around 33 percent of the vote, Angela Merkel now has a difficult task of trying to build a coalition.
She has said that she intended to hold talks with the second biggest party, The Social Democrats, and the smaller liberals and the Greens, but not with the third biggest party, the AfD.
“They would have no influence on the future government’s policies” Mrs. Merkel said.
A shock to the system it may be, the German establishment shows no desire to treat the AfD as a credible partner in a coalition. Hundreds of protestors taking to streets of Berlin on the night of the election, expressed a similar sentiment.
Like UKIP, which seemed a strong voice in the 2016 EU referendum in the UK, the AfD has no proven ability to be an alternative political force for long. Within hours after their election breakthrough, they already started squabbling.
The real danger posed by parties like the AfD and UKIP, is not limited to the electoral upset they cause. Instead, they have an uncanny way of forcing their issues on to the mainstream agenda.
Like UKIP and some pro-Brexit Conservatives in Britain, the AfD politicians have made highly controversial remarks about immigrants, particularly the people of Turkish background in Germany.
Thanks to Turkey’s internal turmoil and freedom of speech violations, Germany’s relations with Turkey have became a key subject of contention for all political parties during the election campaign.
Yet, on September 24 federal elections, 14 German citizens of Turkish-origin got elected to the Bundestag. The leader of the Green Party, Cem Özdemir, a German politician of Turkish origin, may end up as the Foreign Minister in a future coalition.
This did not stop Turkey’s Europe Minister Ömer Çelik claiming that the centre parties lost their support as a result of their hostility towards Turkey. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu went a step further, and asked Germany to learn from its mistakes.
In spite of their hectoring tone, Turkey’s politicians must be the first ones to feel uneasy about the rise of the AfD in Germany.
In addition to approximately three million people of Turkish origin in the country, Germany is the second biggest foreign investor in Turkey.
After Sunday’s elections, there is no room for smugness for anyone, least of all for Turkey.
This post is also available in: Turkish