AfD on the rise: How long will the firewall in East Germany last?

The polls of the AfD in the east continue to rise. How long will the firewall in East Germany last? Three experts answer. All episodes of “3 on 1” can be found here.

The federal CDU tries to demarcate

Danny Schindler is Director at the Institute for Parliamentary Research. He says: The federal CDU is sincerely trying to differentiate itself from the AfD, but is reaching its limits.

In 2018, the CDU federal party conference ruled out any form of cooperation with the AfD. Since then, the federal party leadership has repeatedly affirmed this position. These efforts to differentiate are not artificial, but sincere. Only: You come up against two democratically indissoluble borders. In practice, the AfD can always speak of a common cause if it agrees to CDU applications or even helps to achieve a majority. In view of the parliamentary presence of the AfD, this possibility is more and more given. And even an AfD voting behavior that is tactically aimed at nothing other than exposing the CDU is democratically permissible.

A second control dilemma exists within the party: parties are protected by the constitution as plural, polyphonic structures. Friedrich Merz is not the hierarchical head of a centralized organization. His arm does not reach into every district parliamentary group. If its members force a rapprochement with the AfD, that is not immediately a symptom of a leadership crisis. However, it remains a major challenge for the cohesion of the party, especially before the upcoming state elections in East Germany.

Minority governments without the AfD make sense

Benjamin Hoehne represents the professorship for comparative politics at the University of Münster. He says: Minority governments are a useful way to keep the AfD away from the government.

The firewall against AfD participation in government threatens to shake if it emerges as the strongest force in the state elections in Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia next fall. Minority governments are a useful means of keeping the AfD out of government. They are capable of acting as long as no parliamentary majority is formed against them. They have to be embedded in a cordon sanitaire like in Belgium. This is an agreement by the pluralist parties to cooperate with each other, but not with the AfD. The price of keeping right-wing populist forces out must also be better shared.

In Thuringia, the CDU, which tolerates a government led by the left, is currently paying him the most. However, the opposite constellation would also be conceivable. Perhaps a future minority government would not need a fixed tolerating partner at all, but could rely on changing majorities depending on the issue. The cross-party consensus against right-wing populism is central. It will depend above all on the steadfastness of the CDU.”

Cooperation would further normalize the AfD

Anna Sophie Heinze is a political scientist at the University of Trier. In 2020 her book “Strategies against right-wing populism? Dealing with the AfD in state parliaments”. She says: A cooperation would normalize the AfD further.

Right-wing parties like the AfD are now represented almost everywhere in Europe. Mainstreaming and the normalization of their positions are playing an increasing role. Even in countries where such parties were strictly excluded for a long time, it crumbled cordon sanitaire often first at the local or sub-national level. These processes can also be observed in relation to the AfD – not only, but above all, on the part of the CDU/CSU and FDP.

Especially in the East German states, the balance of power between the parties makes it difficult to exclude the AfD. At the same time, she was particularly radical there right from the start and continued to drive this course within her organization.

As long as the parties refuse to cooperate with the AfD, their influence will remain limited. On the other hand, cooperation would significantly advance their normalization – a process that is hardly reversible and, with a view to their content orientation, is also extremely dangerous.

Source: Tagesspiegel

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