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Germany’s Far-Right AfD: From Scandal to Success in EU Election

In Sunday's EU elections, Germany, with the most seats in the European Parliament, witnessed a significant paradigm shift. The rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party emerged as a focal point, seizing the runner-up position. The party's vote share jumped from 11% in 2019, to 16%; a remarkable success despite recent scandals.

On the other hand, Chancellor Olaf Scholz's traditionally centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) suffered a crushing defeat with just 13.9% of the vote, marking their worst performance since World War II. Meanwhile, the conservative opposition, led by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), remained the strongest German party with over 30% of the vote. 

The SPD admitting its defeat as "bitter" isn't the only concern; what's truly alarming is being outstripped by the far-right AfD. How has an extremist party, suspected of being a threat to democracy, managed to establish such deep roots in just 11 years? 

The 2024 EU elections marked a pivotal moment in German politics, as 16-year-olds exercised their right to vote for the first time. However, this historic milestone took a concerning turn as the AfD capitalised on targeted social media campaigns, notably on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Shockingly, the AfD's strategy proved highly effective, with 16% of youths casting their ballots in their favour. 

The AfD's remarkable traction among younger demographics raises significant concerns. Adolescents, in their formative years, are drawn to social media trends, often without grasping the agendas of populist parties. At 16, individuals start navigating the complexities of identity and ideology. Hence, such strategies could manipulate our society's sensitive generation.

Despite having politicians with migration backgrounds, senior members of the AfD reportedly discussed a master plan last year with neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists. This plan involved the mass deportation of asylum seekers and German citizens of foreign origin. The report sparked mass protests and led to calls for a ban on the AfD. However, the party's recent attempt to attract immigrant-background voters in the EU elections appears hypocritical.

To exploit Muslim migrant voters, particularly the Turkish-German community, who comprise nearly half of all Muslims in Germany, the AfD shifted its political strategy for gain. The party, which in 2016 called for a ban on minarets, the call to prayer, and the full-face veil, claiming that Islam was “not part of Germany,” now adopted a narrative of historical alliance. It promoted a narrative that Germans and Turks are allies, a sentiment allegedly rooted in the alliance between the Ottoman and German Empires during World War I.

Moreover, despite controversies and scandals, AfD's success seems unrealistic given its tarnished credibility and moral integrity. The top members of the party, Maximilian Krah and Petr Bystron, are embroiled in scandals. This comes after one of Krah's assistants was arrested for suspected spying for China. Krah himself faces scrutiny over alleged personal ties to China and Russia. Similarly, Bystron is under investigation for potential financial ties to a pro-Russian network, though he denies the allegations.

As a result of these controversies, AfD was expelled from its pan-European parliamentary ID group ahead of the elections. Also, the day before, the party’s lead candidate resigned and renounced campaign activities after facing backlash for commenting that the SS, the Nazis’ main paramilitary force, were “not all criminals”.

When it comes to the war in Ukraine, the AfD's stance against aiding Ukraine amid its conflict with Russia is akin to ignoring a neighbour in distress. It seems that the AfD wants to leave Ukraine defenseless against aggression. Furthermore, their visits to Moscow and Russian-occupied territories, even after Russia's blatant invasion of Ukraine, are nothing short of a slap in the face to Ukrainian sovereignty.

In the battle against climate change, The AfD’s climate and energy policies hinder Germany’s environmental efforts; They turn a blind eye to the scientific evidence supporting human-caused climate change. Their stance doesn’t just throw a wrench in the works; it actively derails the train of progress towards sustainable solutions.

The AfD's approach to politics is deeply concerning on multiple fronts. Rather than offering constructive solutions to societal issues, the party seems intent on amplifying divisions and creating extremist viewpoints. 

By engaging in opportunistic tactics, they often capitalize on discontent and frustration within society, instead of engaging in meaningful dialogue or policymaking. This not only undermines the democratic process but also erodes trust in political institutions.

The AfD’s actions epitomise a cynical brand of politics that prioritizes power over principle, and divisiveness over unity. By seemingly pandering to extremist elements, the AfD has been accused of lacking a moral compass; a sentiment echoed by those who believe in a politics of unity and inclusivity. Instead of promoting inclusiveness, they propagate prejudice and intolerance, all while claiming to represent the interests of Germans.

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