In recent months in Germany, the far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has received an increase in support indicated by all the main polls: in the last general election, in September 2021, it took 10 percent, after years of constant decline . Today it is close to 20 percent in polls: it is a percentage it has not reached since 2018, when far-right parties almost everywhere in Europe seemed destined to take power.
Things didn’t exactly go like this, but for months now political scientists have been observing an increase in support for many of these parties throughout Europe: in Italy, the Brothers of Italy and the League are the two main parties supporting the government, in Sweden the Sweden Democrats have come within a few percentage points of winning the election, in Greece the election has just been won by a centre-right party, Nea Dimokratiawhich has absorbed many far-right positions in recent years.
In short, it is possible that contingent factors exist which are causing an increase in the consensus of far-right parties throughout Europe. In Germany, however, various commentators attribute the responsibility for this trend to the shortcomings of the current government, supported by Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals, and to which AfD is making a strong opposition. “The only thing a populist right-wing party has to do to be successful today in Germany is do nothing,” he wrote in an analysis article the German newspaper Southgerman newspaper.
The most discussed law proposal in recent weeks in Germany concerns heating systems: it essentially provides that starting from 2024 only heat pump systems can be installed in condominiums and offices, more expensive than normal gas systems. The proposal is so unpopular that it has greatly reduced support for Economy Minister Robert Habeck, of the Greens, who until a few months ago was one of the most popular politicians in Germany.
AfD has historically been a denier on climate change, it has harshly criticized the bill, defining the Greens and their ideas on the ecological transition as “dangerous”. In reality, according to most commentators, it is the ideas of the AfD that are dangerous, often seasoned with racist and misogynistic theories. A few months ago, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, or the country’s internal secret services, had declared the youth section of the party a danger to democracy, in particular due to its “xenophobic and Islamophobic” policies towards migrants and asylum seekers.
Some have linked the recent increase in support for AfD with an increase in asylum seekers arriving in Germany: often these increases are exploited by newspapers and right-wing parties to carry out political campaigns.
Politico writes that from June 2022 to March of this year, monthly asylum requests more than doubled, and today they are around 25 thousand. In 2016, at the peak of arrivals from the so-called “Balkan route”, requests were just under 90,000 per month: but especially during the pandemic, these numbers had dropped considerably, and immigration had practically disappeared in the German public debate.
The consensus for the AfD seems particularly high in the areas of former East Germany, where the economic and social context is more problematic and where in recent years the consensus for the more institutional parties has been greatly reduced. Reuters points out that in Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg polls show the AfD as the leading party: and in all three states elections will be held next year to renew local government.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz, to a question on how to contain the increase in votes for the far right, he answered that it will be necessary “to courageously resolve one problem after another”. At the moment, however, the latest economic forecasts indicate that the German economy will be practically stagnant in 2023 and that it will only slowly restart in 2024: it seems unlikely that the government can trigger a positive narrative on its work starting from these data.