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Right-wing populists soaring high: How established parties aim to avert the “blue miracle” of AfD in 2024

The AfD is no longer many things. Not a political fringe. No flash in the pan. And undeniable.

For months, the party has been recording high polling numbers, and in the state elections in Hesse, it even achieved its strongest result in a western election with 18.4 percent.

The big bang could still come. Brandenburg, Saxony, and Thuringia are set to elect new state parliaments in 2024. In all three federal states, the right-wing populists are leading in polls – in Thuringia and Saxony, they even reach up to 35 percent.

If the AfD manages to turn the values into actual votes, it could win a state parliament election in the East for the first time since its inception. That seems to be the plan.

At the state party conference in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, AfD members proclaimed that the “established parties would experience a blue miracle at the ballot box next year.”

“The state parliament elections in 2024 should worry us”

Naturally, a lot can still happen until the state parliament elections. The political situation can change. And in the alliance Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW), which is set to launch in the new year, political scientists see great potential. Especially in the East of the country.

However, many observers are alarmed. “The heads of the AfD are aiming for a fundamental change in the system,” said former constitutional judge Andreas Voßkuhle in a recent conversation with the “Tagesspiegel”.

In his view, the state parliament elections in 2024 should worry us: “Preventing the AfD from becoming the strongest force will not be easy.” This is likely also clear to the political competitors of the far-right party.

But how do the Social Democrats(SPD), Christian Democrats(CDU), Free Democrats(FDP), Greens and the Left plan to confront the right-wing populists? What topics do they consider important for the state parliament elections and how do they plan to approach them?

SPD aims to score with social aspects

“The SPD will confront the AfD on an intellectual level in the upcoming state parliament elections,” stated a party spokesperson in response to FOCUS online. “The AfD stands for: fewer rights for employees, lower wages, less co-determination.”

The Social Democrats aim to work towards solving “the everyday problems of people, ensuring well-paid jobs, affordable housing, and sufficient day-care places.” According to the spokesperson, the focus lies on the working middle class.

Its members “benefit from social security and a strong welfare state, as well as from investments in good jobs, which are currently being created in many places in Brandenburg, in the Saxon chip production, or in the Thuringian battery production, creating a real advantage for the East.”

The goal is also to improve the financial situation of the working middle class. “If life becomes more expensive elsewhere, we want to provide tax relief. In order for this not to come at the expense of cohesion and the future, burdens must be distributed differently.”

Furthermore, the Social Democrats aim to engage in direct dialogue with citizens. In summary: social issues are intended to sway voters away from AfD and towards the SPD.

The Left: “We understand the situation”

“More preferable in eastern federal states than others”

Meanwhile, The Left describes itself as “a reliable partner of people with low income and societal responsibility – especially in the East.”

“We comprehend the situation in the eastern federal states better than others. And we stand for social cohesion. We don’t pit people against each other,” explains Left party’s Federal Managing Director Tobias Bank in an interview with FOCUS online.

According to him, it is mainly the increased prices that concern people in Germany. “Food prices are at record highs, and the government has prematurely lifted the price brake on energy prices, especially since they have simultaneously abolished subsidies for network charges and increased the CO2 price.”

This would lead to further price increases for the people in Germany. The Left wants to confront the AfD as a party that “represents the interests of the majority,” as per Bank.

“Respect, fair wages, affordable food, affordable rents, affordable mobility… these are all issues that affect people in their daily lives and to which The Left has the best answers. As the only party, we can also say how it should be paid for: by taking the money from the super-rich and large corporations and abolishing the nonsensical limit on borrowing.”

FDP and CDU take a brief approach

FDP and CDU provide vague responses to the question of how they intend to confront the AfD in the upcoming state elections.

In response to FOCUS online’s inquiry, the Liberals write: “To formulate convincing policies, the specific everyday problems of people on the ground must be addressed and solved.”

Therefore, the FDP consistently advocates for the financial relief of the citizens, sound state finances, a stronger control of migration, and the reduction of bureaucracy. “This applies at the federal level as well as in the states and municipalities. With such targeted and fact-oriented work, populists and extremists can be deprived of nourishment, and Germany can be strengthened for a successful future.”

The CDU’s statement is similarly brief. A spokesperson states that the party intends to go into the 2024 election year with the motto “Pure CDU.”

“An important role in this is played by the new basic program of the CDU Germany, which will be adopted at the federal party conference in early May. Our goal is to become so strong as a union that no government can rule against us. Furthermore, our clear resolution remains: No cooperation with the political fringes, with the AfD and the Left party.”

Which topics the party considers important for the state elections in Thuringia, Brandenburg, and Saxony and how exactly they plan to address them remains open. The Greens stated that they could not provide a statement due to capacity reasons.

AfD can also cause a lot of damage without governing

It is clear that the AfD does not even need to be in power to cause damage. In Thuringia, a third of the votes would be enough for the right-wing populists to block constitutional amendments or the election of constitutional judges. Keyword: veto power.

A look at current polls shows that such a scenario would be quite possible. In Thuringia, the AfD is currently at around 35 percent.

Furthermore, the far-right party has already demonstrated what they are capable of with significantly fewer members. In 2020, the party briefly brought FDP member Thomas Kemmerich to the post of Thuringia’s Minister President – triggering a government crisis.

Voßkuhle told the “Tagesspiegel,” “We are witnessing people being disappointed by politics and its institutions, which is why they are turning away.” The established parties only have a few months left to win back these voters.

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