Berlin, January 22, 2024
Germany witnessed an unprecedented wave of demonstrations as thousands of citizens, spanning cities like Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Hannover, Kassel, Nuremberg, and more, took to the streets to vehemently oppose far-right ideologies. The protests, organized in response to a controversial “remigration” meeting held by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, received endorsement from the current government, further intensifying the public outcry.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz, addressing the nation from the Kanzleramt, disclosed his participation in the protests, emphasizing the collective concern over the rising threat of right-wing extremism. He declared, “Right-wing extremists are attacking our democracy. They want to destroy our cohesion.”
The protests were triggered by revelations that AfD members participated in a November meeting in Potsdam, discussing the future of Germany, including the contentious topic of mass deportations. The inclusion of far-right extremist groups and the discourse on “remigration” – a term signifying the forced expulsion of migrants and minority-background German citizens – fueled public anger.
AfD acknowledged its members’ presence at the meeting and defended its position by referencing the inclusion of remigration plans in its previous election manifesto. The party distanced itself from suggestions involving naturalized German citizens, attributing them to Martin Kellner, an Austrian right-wing figure not affiliated with AfD.
The protests gained momentum, leading to an unexpectedly large turnout at a rally in Hamburg. Originally planned for 50,000 attendees, the event had to be cut short when an estimated 80,000 people gathered. Mayor of Hamburg and Regional State Premier Peter Tschentcher denounced the far-right agenda, emphasizing that “remigration” was a provocative term aligned with right-wing extremism.
Calls to ban AfD from German politics have intensified, with 25 members of the Bundestag from Chancellor Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) advocating for a legal examination. The German constitution stipulates that parties seeking to undermine the “free democratic basic order” may be deemed unconstitutional. However, doubts linger regarding the feasibility of a ban, and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck cautioned against potential “massive damage” if such attempts fail to meet legal criteria.
AfD’s popularity has surged in recent polls, reaching 22 percent nationally, surpassing ruling coalition parties like SPD (12 percent), Greens (12 percent), and Free Democrats (FDP) (5 percent). With crucial state elections in Brandenburg, Thuringia, and Saxony on the horizon, a ban on AfD could have significant repercussions, given its strong showing in pre-election polls.
Already classified as “right-wing extremist” in three Eastern states by intelligence services, AfD faces scrutiny for the same designation in five additional states. The political landscape in Germany remains tense, reflecting the deep-seated divisions stirred by the controversial far-right movement.