Alternative for Germany (AfD), the far-right German party that became the third political force and the first opposition force in the country in the 2017 federal elections, began its federal electoral campaign on Tuesday in Schwerin, the capital of the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where he became an advocate for skeptics with the covid-19 vaccine. If in the electoral race four years ago his motto was the fight against the supposed “Islamization” of Germany due to the migration policies of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the axis of the campaign that now begins for the September 26 elections is the defense of those who refuse to be vaccinated. Like Alice Weidel, AfD leader and candidate, for whom Germany has degenerated into a ‘state hippy”. In addition, for the first time, the party defends the exit from the EU.
The party seeks to obtain political benefits from the polarization caused by the pandemic and the measures to alleviate it, a strategy with which the AfD tries to face polls that predict results below those obtained in 2017, when it collected the 12 , 6% of the votes. The polls now reduce this support to a band that oscillates between 9% and 11% of votes, despite the fact that the formation has maintained the hard line that gave such good results four years ago, especially with the criticisms of the policies immigration and asylum office in Berlin.
Both Weidel and the co-leader and candidate of the ultra formation Tino Chrupalla believe that the AfD can recover part of that lost electoral support by becoming a champion of the anti-vaccines, so it focuses its attention on the fight to eliminate the restrictions that are imposed on those who they do not want to be vaccinated against covid-19. At the launch rally of her federal campaign, the candidate of the formation to the chancellery defended that everyone should have the freedom to decide if they face the possible side effects of the vaccine. Weidel said that discriminating against Germans on the basis of whether they are immunized or not is unconstitutional. The AfD leader warned the government that if he persists in what he defined as “polarization”, they will take him to court.
“There should be no covert mandatory vaccination by increasing pressure [para vacunarse]Weidel stressed. Assuming the discourse of the anti-vaccine movement, the candidate questioned its effectiveness and proclaimed: “We want to return to normality, and normality is freedom for all.”
AfD’s bid to become the voice of those who refuse to be immunized is a calculation that is not without uncertainty. Since the start of the pandemic, the party has opposed federal government measures to combat the virus and has attacked all politicians and organizations that have participated in managing the crisis. This strategy has resulted in a loss of more than four points in the polls in less than five months. Polls gave it 14% in January 2020 and in June it had dropped to 9%, a trend that continues in August 2021. In addition, the internal secret services have put AfD under the microscope for its radicalism, and the Minister of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, has affirmed that the extreme right is the main threat to the security of the country.
Amid this decline in popularity, Schwerin’s choice to launch the campaign was no accident. In the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the party won 20.8% of the vote in the 2016 regional elections. By launching the campaign in its capital, the far-right party aims to remind the country that the party still has an important electoral base in eastern Germany, whose electoral weight is not enough to win federal elections, but it is enough for another candidate to lose them.
The anti-vaccination discourse has joined the axes of a populist discourse in which other star issues continue to be criticism of the euro, immigration and asylum policies, and the alleged weakness of the Government towards crime. Also the allusions to a future “prosperity” of the country that the party is subject to a review of the national accounts to see where billions can supposedly be saved that, in his opinion, should be used to finance better services and aid to the Germans. And among that money that, according to the speech of its leaders, is now dedicated to expendable causes are the funds destined for the EU and the energy transition, since the AfD advocates that nuclear and coal energy continue to be produced, unlike the Government and environmentalists.
Consistent with his hard line on immigration, no money should be spent on those policies either. AfD blames migrants, and especially refugees, for increased insecurity that ultimately blames Merkel’s government as well. Hence Alice Weidel’s allusion to the “State hippy“What he says Germany has become, by a government – he proclaimed at the Schwerin rally -” which, in his opinion, has not respected law and order.
Eight years after the founding of AfD in 2013, and as Germany prepares to go to the polls on September 26, the party’s electoral program remains true to itself. Calls for the return to the Deutsche Mark and the reinstatement of compulsory military service; declares war on immigration and calls for strict border controls; offers to welcome persecuted Christians and white farmers from South Africa into the country and advocates a rapprochement with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The party document even goes further: for the first time it is in favor of Germany’s exit from the European Union.