A Defeat for Angela Merkel

The national conservative Alternative for Germany party (AfD) came second in elections to the state legislature in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Sunday.

Commentary by the Berliner Zeitung:
“It is frightening to see how much influence the AfD already exerts on public opinion, the general mood and above all in politics. And the politicians’ reaction to it is the opposite of what it should be. They’re not staying true to themselves and sticking to their policies but going on the defensive instead…. This is not the way to achieve a consensus of democrats against the right, which is urgently needed in view of the AfD’s growing success. The fact that this was mainly a protest by the voters must not be underestimated. The democratic parties can tell themselves that they can win back support with a solid social policy and by focussing on these voters politically once more. But the AfD is a party that wants to end the liberal consensus and make substantial changes to the country. And who knows how many voters might like that idea after all.”

Commentary by the Tages-Anzeiger (Switzerland):
“Particularly in eastern Germany the willingness of the state to help refugees was regarded with envy by those who feel they’ve received the short end of the stick. Traditional political approaches can do little faced with the increasingly undisguised mood of xenophobia. If the CDU adopts a harsher tone against foreigners and lets itself be carried away by the wave of anti-Islam hysteria, that will only legitimate the policies of the AfD…. The German state must invest more not only where people feel neglected, but where they really are neglected. In areas where the schools and stores are closing, the bus no longer runs and the fire department only operates on the weekend because municipalities are too strapped for cash: in the countryside, the villages, the poorer neighbourhoods of the cities. The state can afford this. And it owes it to the people who view the new arrivals with resentment.”

Commentary by Mediapart (France):
“The German economic miracle seems more and more like a mirage. In the name of an ordoliberal [sic] model it subjects the EU to recessive economic policies that exacerbate inequalities while favouring the big German companies, which benefit from the de-industrialization caused by austerity. In saying goodbye to social democratic compromises, the social democracy has changed orientation and now promotes liberal globalization. That’s happening right across Europe, including in Nordic countries like Sweden. The upshot is the loss of influence of the established parties. Once securing 35 percent or more of the popular vote, they have now become minority parties…. This loss of influence has left the field open to an increasingly popular far right.”

Commentary by NRC Handelsblad (Netherlands):
“This state [Mecklenurg Vorpommern] is not representative of all Germany. And its economic role is also modest. But the signal sent by the voters is not. Exactly one year after Merkel decided to take in refugees stranded in Hungary, the chancellor and her party are unable to convince a large part of the German public that her policy is right…. In recent months it had already become clear that many Christian Democratic politicians were distancing themselves from Merkel’s refugee policy and by extension from the chancellor herself. The tensions between the CDU and [its sister party] the CSU are a particularly sensitive issue because parliamentary elections will be held in a year’s time and Merkel still hasn’t announced whether she will run for a fourth term of office.”

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