Martin Schulz, the SPD candidate for chancellor, called for authorities to put the Alternative for Germany under surveillance. Statements by a top AfD candidate shocked many, yet it may come third in the election.
Social Democratic Party (SPD) chancellor candidate Martin Schulz said the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is "being ever more open about showing its right-wing radical face."
Speaking with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Schulz called the AfD leadership "racist" and added that, "The nationalist rhetoric being used by AfD politicians shows that one must assume that an attitude incompatible with Germany's constitution is not only present in the party base but also among its leaders."
Schulz called for the party to be put under surveillance by Germany's Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the country's domestic security service. He made the demand in the wake of comments delivered earlier this month by AfD party leader Alexander Gauland while addressing the party's right-wing nationalist group "Der Flügel” (The Wing).
Speaking of Nazis
In the speech, Gauland said Germany should stop apologizing for its Nazi past: "If the French are proud of their emperor and the Britons of Nelson and Churchill, we have the right to be proud of the achievements of German soldiers in two world wars.”
Speaking of the Nazi era Gauland said, "People no longer need to reproach us with these 12 years - they don't relate to our identity nowadays."
On Friday, Gauland said he stood behind the statements he made earlier in the week.
"I do not dispute that the Wehrmacht was involved in crimes during World War Two," he said. "But I named Rommel and Stauffenberg, and I was very clear that millions of German soldiers were brave and not involved in crimes.
"I know that six million Jews were murdered," he said. "But millions of German soldiers did their duty for a criminal system. But the system is at fault for that and not the soldiers, who were brave."
Interior Minister Heiko Maas, an SPD party colleague of Schulz, said Friday, "Anyone who talks like that must accept being called a right-wing extremist.” Although individual members of the AfD are currently under surveillance by German authorities, thus far the party itself has avoided such scrutiny.
Shocking statements, wide support
Though leading German politicians have expressed shock and indignation over such statements, which were by no means a novelty, the AfD is currently polling at 12 percent in the runup to the country's September 24 elections. That means the far-right party is currently the third most popular political party in Germany behind the union or Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union, and the SPD, which currently is the junior partner in a grand coalition governing with the CDU/CSU.
A poll published Thursday put the AfD ahead of the liberal FDP (9.5 percent), the Left party (9 percent ) and the Green party (7.5 percent.)
Thus, AfD will likely win its first seats in Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, and become the body's largest opposition party.
Schulz was careful not to ostracize AfD voters, however, saying, "We must fight the party's leaders, but we cannot beat up on its supporters."