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Germany: Protests Against the Far-Right

Updated: Mar 15

Hundreds of thousands of people protested across Germany for 10 days to show their non-affiliation with Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), or Alternative for Germany, a far-right party. Many members of the party recently met with right-wing extremists “to discuss the deportation of millions of immigrants, including some with German citizenship,” which then led to the protest. Tensions are intensifying in the country as the party gets more and more popular (as per many surveys).

The Rise of the AfD

The AfD started as a more moderate party in 2013 but became more extreme with time. In 2015, the AfD caught media attention when it criticized Angela Merkel (chancellor of Germany at this time) for letting 1.3 million undocumented migrants and refugees into the country, mostly from the Middle East. Then, the party developed a stronger media presence by using a more anti-establishment approach with the “lying press” slogan and anti-Islam policy proposals. Finally, for more than five years now, many leaders of the AfD stated how Germany should not be so critical of its Nazi past.

In polls, AfD’s popularity continued to increase over recent years. During the 2021 election, AfD only had 10% of the votes, and in the most recent poll, which happened on Jan. 5, 2024, AfD received 23% of the votes and became the party with the second-most votes.

What is Special About this Protest?

The symbol of mobilization of this protest shows the country’s division. Despite the party’s popularity in the polls, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in major cities and smaller cities to protest the party. The anti-far-right protests even happened in East German cities, where the party is leading in three of the five Länders.

Many politicians supported these protests, including the current chancellor Olaf Scholz who asked all Germans “to take a stand – for cohesion, for tolerance, for our democratic Germany.”

The Aftermath

37% of Germans supported the protests which impacted the AfD electoral numbers. It is still the second party with the most votes, but its popularity declined. The debate about banning radical parties intensified after the protests. The German Constitutional Court stated on Jan. 23 that the far-right party Die Heimat could lose their state funding allowed to political parties because it deemed the party's members as menaces to democracy. The AfD links frequently to this party, meaning this decision potentially affects its state funding too.

The government may revoke the AfD's state funding if the Constitutional Court judges that the AfD represents an authoritarian party trying to harm German democracy. However, many politicians advise against the ban, because it may be perceived that the AfD voters are losing their democratic freedom.

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