German minister compares far-right party to neo-Nazis

Schäuble brands Alternative für Deutschland "demagogical"

Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has attacked as demagogical and populist the anti-euro Alternative für Deutschland party, comparing it to German neo-Nazis. Photograph: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has attacked as demagogical and populist the anti-euro Alternative für Deutschland party, comparing it to German neo-Nazis. Photograph: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

 

Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has called the anti-euro Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party demagogical and populist, and compared it to German neo-Nazis.

His attack on the AfD is the first time a senior member of chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has engaged with the party, little more than a year after it was founded.

Until now the CDU largely ignored the AfD, hoping it would vanish as quickly as it appeared. However, a run of AfD electoral success appears to have prompted a rethink inside Dr Merkel’s inner circle.

“We have to deal with these populists with all decisiveness,” said Dr Schäuble to Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper, accusing the AfD of employing “no-holds-barred demaogoguery” to win support.

The rapid rise of the party reminded him of the Republikaner, he said, a neo-Nazi party that won seats in the 1990s in the state parliament of his native Baden-Württemberg.

 

Germany without euro

Dr Schäuble said AfD party leader Bernd Lucke, an economics professor in Hamburg, wanted voters to believe everything would be better in Germany without the euro.

“That an economics professor claims such nonsense is an impertinence,” he said, adding that every serious economist knew that European integration would mean less prosperity in Germany.

Dr Lucke said the finance minister’s “below the belt” attack revealed “his helplessness in dealing with a party that’s opening people’s eyes . . . and finding growing support”. He added that Dr Schäuble was a “pied piper” for “not informing adequately what risks hide behind German liability for European debts”, a nod to the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund his party opposes.

 

Social spending

Anti-euro, bailout-critical policies were the core of the AfD programme when it was established last year. After narrowly missing the 5 per cent hurdle to enter the Bundestag last September, it polled 7 per cent in May’s European elections. In recent weeks it won double-digit support in three regional polls in eastern Germany after broadening its anti-euro platform to demand greater social spending and tough law-and-order policies.

 

However, the party faces growing criticism that its rapid rise is thanks to extremist positions to attract support from Germany’s political fringes. In recent regional elections the AfD demanded referendums on mosque minarets and praised East Germany as a safer place than Brandenburg’s border region with Poland today. A candidate in the central state of Thuringia, with a non- German quota of 1.8 per cent, warned that excessive immigration endangered “German identity”.

 

Voter concern

 

The AfD denies it is chasing extremist votes, insisting its critical stance on immigration addresses a voter concern that mainstream parties ignore.

But far-right rows forced the AfD in Brandenburg to fire two new parliamentarians before they even took their seats. The first was ousted for spreading far-right rumours about colleagues to the media. Days later his replacement, Jan- Ulrich Weiß, was kicked out for posting a picture of banker Jacob Rothschild on Facebook with the commentary: “We own pretty much every bank worldwide. We steer news, media, oil and your government . . . you have probably never heard of me.”

Brandenburg AfD leader Alexander Gauland said the remarks from Mr Weiß were more suitable for the Nazi propaganda newspaper Der Stürmer than his party.