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03/12/2016

Trump victory could rob German far-right of US bogeyman

Global Europe

Trump victory could rob German far-right of US bogeyman

The AfD initially joined its European far-right brethren in celebrating Trump's win, but it could spell the beginning of the end of their rapid rise in the polls.

[De Visu/Shutterstock]

The Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD) hailed Donald Trump’s election victory at first, but the new president could rob the far-right party of one of its main bogeymen that it uses to drum up support: the United States itself. EurActiv’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

The AfD’s Berlin chapter tweeted “We got in!” in response to Trump defeating Hillary Clinton in the race to the White House yesterday (9 November) and the far-right party’s jubilance, at first glance, is not unexpected.

Trump’s way of doing political business is very similar to theirs: pretend to champion the causes of average citizens and expose the political elite, with a dash of xenophobic undertones and calculated provocation thrown in for good measure, as well as a relatively lenient shared-attitude towards Russia.

But scratch beneath the surface and there is evidence that Trump’s triumph may not be the the victory the AfD would have necessarily wanted. For example, party co-chief Jörg Meuthen said at a Monday (7 November) press conference that neither candidate was particularly convincing and that the Republicans could have fielded a better option.

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But, following Trump’s somewhat surprising victory, Meuthen changed tack yesterday, insisting that “Trump was rightly rewarded for his courage to rebel against the system and address uncomfortable truths.”

Meuthen’s position in the party has been tarnished slightly, especially after his Monday decision to not run in the upcoming Bundestag elections. This opens the door for his co-chief, Frauke Petry, who has long campaigned in favour of Trump; she lauded the billionaire’s win as a victory for the “disenfranchised”.

Co-founder of the party Alexander Gauland said a few days ago that he believes “Trump is too unpredictable”.

Early on Wednesday, the party’s vice-chairperson, Beatrix von Storch, claimed that the West wanted a change of policy, but she still kept her distance from Trump. She added that “although Trump has promoted himself as a supposed outsider, he now has to prove that he really wants a new beginning for the US, particularly in foreign policy”.

Storch’s words betray a growing unease in the AfD, not so much that Trump remains a part of the hated US, but more that the president-elect’s promises to consign some of Barack Obama’s policies to the scrapheap may do the AfD more damage than good.

The AfD's 'perjury' problem

Sometimes an accusation is all that’s required. Under investigation on Wednesday (25 May) for lying under oath to the Saxon state parliament, for Frauke Petry’s critics the allegation could not have been more apt. Suspected of covering up loans made to her Alternative fuer Deutschland party, the right-wing politician could face up to five years in prison for perjury.

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TTIP and sanctions against Russia have made the US a useful bogeyman for the AfD and its rapid growth in recent years. Take that away and the far-right movement won’t have so much to bang the drum about. After all, a dislike of the US has proved more of a uniting factor for the party than any affection for Russia.

A latent anti-America streak was also visible in comments made by the AfD’s Thuringia chief, Björn Höcke, who wrote that Trump must now prove that “there can be a US president that can be independent of lobbying and nepotism, operating independent policy for the benefit of his people, responsibly, as regards the rest of the world.”

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