‘East Germany’ debate on agenda following European Parliament elections

‘East Germany’ debate on agenda following European Parliament elections

3 decades after reunification of Germany, old border unexpectedly resurfaces on election night, says German political scientist

By Erbil Basay

BERLIN (AA) - German political scientist Thorsten Faas said dissatisfaction with his government is particularly high in the eastern part of the country, where the far-right AfD has become the strongest party after the European Parliament elections.

In Sunday's elections, the coalition government comprising the Social Democratic Party, Greens and Free Democratic Party suffered a significant setback with a loss of votes.

The far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party increased its vote share by 4.9% compared to 2019, securing second place in German politics with 15.9%.

In eastern Germany, the far-right AfD succeeded, while in western states, the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union parties emerged victorious.

Election results brought the "East Germany" debate back into the spotlight.

"Even 30 years after Germany's reunification, this old border between East and West Germany suddenly reemerges on an election night," Faas, a professor at the Freie Universitat Berlin, told Anadolu.

"The ties between voters and parties are much looser in East Germany. This makes it much more difficult for established parties to succeed in the region," Faas noted.

He underlined that dissatisfaction with the government is notably higher in this region, leading voters to more frequently opt for “protest parties.”

"AfD advocates different positions on the war between Russia and Ukraine as well as migration issues compared to other parties. This garners widespread support in East Germany,” said Faas, adding that dissatisfaction with the government is particularly high in the eastern region.

Chancellor Scholz's Social Democrats and coalition partners suffered heavy losses in the elections.

The AfD won the most votes in five eastern German states, reflecting a growing political division in the country.

The anti-immigrant party won 31.8% of the vote in Saxony, 30.7% in Thuringia, 30.5% in Saxony-Anhalt, 28.3% in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and 27.5% in Brandenburg, according to preliminary official results.

Support for the AfD in the ex-communist East German states was significantly higher than its nationwide polling result of 15.9%. It was the anti-immigrant party’s best-ever result in a European Parliament election, making it the second party in Germany.

The AfD has been embroiled in several scandals in recent years, including a secret meeting of its senior officials to plan mass expulsion of immigrants, which have raised doubts about the party’s commitment to democratic values.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency has been monitoring the AfD’s youth wing and various branches due to suspected anti-democratic aspirations within the party.

In recent years, prominent members of the party have sparked controversy with anti-immigrant, antisemitic and Islamophobic remarks. Critics accuse the AfD of encouraging xenophobia and anti-Muslim racism in Germany.

*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz

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