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Germany: AfD a growing threat to democracy, says minister

December 28, 2023

The interior minister of Thuringia state has warned of dangers to democracy as the far-right AfD gains support. His warning comes as his state and two others face elections next year, with the AfD leading in surveys.

 AfD logo with shadowy figure in front
The AfD is considered as a threat to democracy by many in mainstream German politicsImage: Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/dpa/picture alliance

The interior minister of the eastern German state of Thuringia, Georg Maier, has warned that "democracy is under pressure" as the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party seems set to score major successes in state elections next year.

The AfD came in first in recent popularity polls in Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg, all of which are to hold elections in 2024.

What did Maier say?

Maier, a member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats, told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung that "right-wing extremists of the AfD under Björn Höcke are trying to undermine democracy from within by all means."

"We democrats must face up to a fight for which we are so far ill-equipped," Maier said.

Höcke is the head of the Thuringian chapter of the AfD and the leader of its parliamentary party in the state. The Thuringian AfD branch has been classed as "proven right-wing extremist" by Germany's domestic intelligence agency, as have those in Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt.

Maier called for a more precise formulation of the procedure for selecting a state premier in Thuringia. He said that the current stipulation allowed a candidate to be chosen in a third round with a single vote even if all other parliamentarians voted against him or her.

"We have to make the constitution weatherproof," he said, adding that he sometimes has "the feeling that we are sleepwalking into a kind of disaster and will wake up in an authoritarian system on September 2."

Social problems

Maier pointed to manifold social problems in Germany's former communist eastern states as contributors to the AfD's rise in popularity, saying that people in the east earned 25% less on average than in the west, for example.

He said many people were very worried by the crises facing the world at present, and even sometimes had concerns about whether they had enough money to pay for heating.

"These are social problems that cry out to the heavens. And if we do not address these problems, politics will lose a part of the population," he said.

 tj/rc (dpa)

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