Eurosceptic AfD under attack in Germany
Vandalised campaign posters, angry whistles during events, physical assaults on campaigners – the Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) is increasingly victimised by "undemocratic attacks", says the party’s leader Bernd Lucke. EurActiv Germany reports.
With the European elections coming up in less than two weeks, Germany’s Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) and neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) are hanging their campaign posters particularly high. In doing so, campaigners hope to keep them out of reach of passing vandals, who have destroyed roughly 30-40% of posters.
During a press conference on Wednesday (14 May), AfD chief Bernd Lucke said he was "shocked" over the "undemocratic attacks" on the AfD. Vandals usually come in the dark of night, he said, tearing the posters down, ripping them apart or even lighting them on fire.
The issue is an "extensive phenomenon", affecting the entire nation, Lucke explained. In some areas, above all university towns, he said the destruction rate is even at 100%. In Leipzig, for example, "not a single poster lasts longer than a day"..
But attacks are not limited to the AfD's posters. Public campaign events were interrupted by angry whistling from left-wing demonstrators. Some events could only be continued with security from local police forces. Hosts providing venues for the party's events received threats.
The aggressors did not even stop at physical attacks, explained Lucke. Campaigners at party booths were spit at and sustained kicks and punches – even with brass knuckles, said the AfD top candidate.
These "grave circumstances" are hindering the AfD in the "democratic campaign", Lucke said, also appealing directly to the AfD's political opponents from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Social Democratic Party (SPD) and others. They should "stand protectively in front of us", he said.
In addition, Lucke hopes for security assistance from the top. It would be nice, he said, if German President Joachim Gauck or Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière would make statements on the issue.
“Fascist in disguise”
At the same time, Lucke made it clear that "the political level is by no means excluded from these developments".
On the contrary, even politicians regularly let loose "offensive insults", like the regional Prime Minister of Saarland Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. In an interview with Die Welt, she said the AfD was "on the verge of anti-constitutionalism". The chairman of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) Christian Lindner, called the AfD "Republicans Reloaded" last weekend.
Lucke was particularly adamant about his response to an "unspeakable faux pas" made by the FDP’s European election candidate, Michael Theurer, who called Lucke a "fascist in disguise": "This is the worst form of personal insult and can only be described as vulgarity," said Lucke in a letter addressed to Lindner and FDP top candidate, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff. The statements made by Theurer are politically outrageous, because they relativise the crimes of the Nazis, Lucke wrote. As a result, the AfD leader called on Lindner to withdraw from the 2014 European election race.
According to current polls, the AfD is expected to achieve 6-7% in the elections for the European Parliament on 25 May. The FDP is currently at 3-4% support, trailing behind its worst election result in history ,after last September's Bundestag elections.
Eurosceptic parties around Europe have shown their willingness to act on a European level.
The controversial Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders recently toured Europe in an attempt to forge a new movement of far-right parties ahead of the European elections.
But not many supposed “like-minded” parties were ready to join the initiative, and UKIP, the most vocal Eurosceptic party in the European Parliament, rejected the proposition outright.
Eurosceptic political parties are blossoming in many European countries, but their backgrounds and causes are very different. Analysts have argued that even though the next Parliament could have a much higher number of Eurosceptic, even populist MEPs, they have a smaller chance of forming a coherent bloc.
>> Read more on the upcoming EU elections