From a human rights perspective, the Alternative für Deutschland’s (AfD) entry into the Bundestag poses a serious challenge. Germany’s main parties should also examine the extent to which they emulated – and legitimized – its anti-rights agenda.
The AfD’s election platform and rhetoric makes clear their disdain for human rights including equal treatment for all. The party wants to hollow out refugee protection, creating a requirement that asylum seekers present their own country ID documents – impossible for those who lost or were forced to destroy papers as they fled violence and persecution. While some parties want to limit family reunification, the AfD wants to abolish family reunification altogether.
Pervasive xenophobia is also apparent in the party platform’s position on domestic security, which is entirely focused on crime caused by foreigners. In order to fight this, the party is prepared to withdraw German citizenship from naturalized citizens and deport recognized refugees who have committed trivial offenses.
Senior members of the party have also made deeply problematic statements. For example, Alexander Gauland, AfD’s co-chair, has said that Aydan Özoğuz – an MP of Turkish descent – ought to be “disposed of” in Turkey. AfD federal vice-chairwoman Beatrix von Storch endorses the use of firearms against people who cross the German border irregularly, and the regional spokesman for the AfD in Thuringia, Björn Höcke, used right-wing extremist terminology when talking about the Holocaust memorial in Berlin.
Mainstream parties share responsibility for the AfD’s electoral success. Instead of unequivocally opposing its platform in the run-up to the federal elections, leading politicians from the main parties pandered to and aped its anti-refugee and xenophobic agenda. By doing so, they legitimize extreme policies in the eyes of ordinary voters.
The mainstreaming of hate in German politics needs urgently to be reversed. This can only be achieved if other members of the Bundestag openly declare themselves for human rights, defend them at every turn and explain why there is no contradiction between respect for universal human rights and a secure and prosperous future. Anything less would be a dangerous omission.
The election outcome from September 24, 2017 should serve as a warning sign that human rights are under threat and all politicians need to stand up and defend them. The mainstream fightback should begin now.