On Tuesday, the AfD party will make their debut in Germany’s newly-elected parliament, in an unprecedented show of force.
Calling on people to join the protest on Sunday, the leftist movement Campact urged Germans to “steal the show from the AfD,” but failed to do so. Organisers say “12 000” people turned up, but it may have been as little as 3000 only.
A throng of angry leftists held up “Stop AfD”, ”Nazi pigs!”and “All Berlin hates the AfD” signs outside the parliament building in Berlin, protesting against “hate” without irony.
As the 709 lawmakers convene for the first session on Tuesday, some 92 members of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) will take their seats, making it the country’s third biggest party.
The repertoire of the the leftist morality guardians “fighting hate” meanwhile has shrunk to hateful slogans and impotent rage. One woman at present at the demonstration told Junge Freiheit: “I have been irritated by the slogan, ‘All Berlin hates the AfD’, and I have also mentioned it to a few walking next to me, that the motto is just the opposite: against hatred.” She eventually left the demonstration because of the slogans.
Senior AfD lawmaker Peter Felser described the slogans by the leftist demonstrators as “an attack on democracy”.
Others have noted the frustration of the leftists too. “Realpolitik is back, and realistic politics is always conservative, which is not the same as the preservation of what has been lived, but the preservation of the tried and tested,” the Swiss journalist and politician Roger Köppel, remarked.
But Alexander Hensel, a researcher at the Göttingen Institute for Democracy Research complained to the British Financial Times: “The tone of the debates will become much more raucous. They [AfD] use concepts that are, for good reason, banned in German political culture: it seeks attention by deliberately breaking through the political consensus.”
Germany’s mainstream parties have meanwhile changed parliamentary rules to block the AfD from getting the symbolic post of interim speaker, AFP reported.
The interim speaker is usually the oldest MP, but now it will be the politician with the longest political experience, suggesting that outgoing Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble will take the role. Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly asked Schaeuble to speak, in order to stop the AfD from speaking in parliament.
While each party also reserves the right to nominate a vice-chair of the lower house, the member has to be elected by parliament.
Mainstream parties have said they would oppose the AfD nominee Albrecht Glaser because he has said Muslims should be denied constitutional guarantees of religious freedom because Islam is a “political ideology” rather than a religion.
But AfD party co-chief Alexander Gauland told Bild am Sonntag: “If he [Glaser] fails during the first election, we will nominate him again. Mr Glaser represents positions on Islam that all of us in AfD represent.”
Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the AfD’s presence in parliament gave him a “sick feeling”.
“It’s a depressing and unsettling feeling to know that there are now people sitting in the Bundestag who appear to want to hide the Nazi past and to target Muslims and asylum seekers,” he told the Juedische Allgemeine, a Jewish newspaper in Germany.
The AfD MPs have frequently demanded of local governments how much public money was being spent on migrants posing as “refugees”, whether they’ve committed any crimes, and whether any have become Islamist radicals.
While Merkel is scrambling to form a coalition with parties that have diametrically opposing views on immigration, mainstream parties continue squabbling over who should sit next to the AfD and how to best undermine them.
It may be because the AfD has promised to set up a committee of inquiry into Merkel’s doings because of “all the breaches of the law that lady has committed”.
Coalition talks between Merkel’s party , the far-left Greens and the liberal Free Democratic Party began on Tuesday, but hurdles loom large.