Opinion: Xenophobia alone will not sustain the AfD | Opinion | DW | 24.04.2016
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Opinion: Xenophobia alone will not sustain the AfD

Germany's coalition hasn't benefited from a decrease in refugees following the EU's deportation deal with Turkey, and the right-wing AfD is holding strong. It's not all bleak, though, DW's Richard Fuchs writes.

The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) took an anti-refugee stance to win over voters in several regional elections over the past few months. Now that fewer refugees are arriving in Germany, the party has taken an anti-Islam stance to keep its place in the polls.

With the Balkan land route effectively sealed off, the number of refugees reaching Germany's borders has slowed to a few dozen a day. And, over the past few weeks, Aegean Sea crossings from Turkey to Greece have also decreased, with refugees now attempting more deadly Mediterranean journeys from North Africa to Italy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government should be receiving a popular boost from the developments, but polls show the opposite: According to a report by the public broadcaster ARD, support for Germany's major political parties is dropping. The Social Democrats have just 21 percent; Merkel's Christian Democrats are at a five-year low of 33 percent.

Populist success story

Fuchs Richard Kommentarbild App

DW's Richard Fuchs

Some observers worry that if the number of refugees were to increase again, support for the AfD could go through the roof. But that is a fallacy.

Refugees alone cannot explain the recent increase in support for the AfD, which has become the bastion of Germany's disgruntled. Many potential AfD sympathizers are simply looking for an alternative to the democracy that has guaranteed Germany seven decades of peace and prosperity; that the party's policies are intolerant of foreigners is just icing on the cake.

For that reason alone, a decrease in the number of refugees won't affect support for the AfD, though many may wish that were the case. It is a party of protest, not of coherence.

It's too unpredictable

The AfD is a cauldron of diverse and fully incompatible worldviews. The party's first-ever election platform is scheduled for release at the end of April. And it will be interesting to see how the party can concentrate its supporters' various grievances on issues beyond refugees. Many protest parties in Europe have disappeared as quickly as they came.

Further, the AfD has not yet provided evidence that the party can offer real solutions to real problems. It will need to do that to maintain long-term support.

It's also unclear whether the party's leading figures are electable in the long term. Politicians who tailor their messages to the fringe are still required to follow the rules of decency during public appearances. Those who do not will not receive the politically all-important airtime.

Party supporters believe that if Chancellor Merkel loses, the AfD wins. This political equation is far too simple to be realistic. Politics is remarkably more complex - as is the modern world.

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