(German elections) Alternative for Germany may end up as biggest opposition partyWorld | 13 Sep 2017 8:54 pm
Like populist politicians elsewhere, Alternative for Germany, or AfD, portrays itself as the lone voice of the people and all others, from mainstream politicians to journalists, as enemies or even traitors. It also enjoys good ties with Moscow .
The party has created a formidable social media machine with which to stoke outrage against migrants, Angela Merkel and the media. It has by far the highest number of Facebook followers of all German political parties, and members avidly use Twitter to share news about crimes if they are committed by migrants.
"Merkel has lost credibility among conservatives,” said Bernd Lucke, one of the founders of AfD who left the party in 2015 after losing a leadership battle. Lucke said many German conservatives are unsure who they’ll back this time round.
Recent opinion polls show almost half of German voters are still undecided.
Some in AfD fear the party’s unwillingness to clamp down on extreme nationalist rhetoric and veiled anti-Semitism could end up costing it precious votes.
"Germans would rather vote for nuclear war than for Nazis,” AfD’s regional head in North Rhine-Westphalia state, Marcus Pretzell, told The Associated Press in May.
This week, the party closed ranks around co-leader Alice Weidel (pictured), following media reports that she had expressed racist views in a private email four years ago. Senior AfD figures dismissed the report in the weekly Welt am Sonntag, which quoted from an email Weidel allegedly sent to an acquaintance in which she claimed the government was trying to cause "civil war” by systematically flooding German cities with Arab and Roma migrants.
Gideon Botsch, a political scientist at the University of Potsdam near Berlin. said it’s conceivable that AfD might again fail at the last hurdle — like it did in 2013, when it received 4.7 percent of the vote.
On the other hand, if the party comes third and Merkel’s Union bloc continues its grand coalition with the center-left Social Democrats, AfD could end up being the biggest opposition party, with special privileges in Parliament.
"That will put AfD in a very strong position, but a lot depends on whether it can behave professionally,” Botsch said.-AP