A rag-tag bunch of largely racist, Islamophobic, anti-EU, climate-change denying douchebags is entering the Bundestag. Thirteen percent of German voters – more men than women, more Ossis than Wessis – voted for people who wish to honour the service of German soldiers in the Second World War, who want to ban mosques, who want to deport as many refugees and asylum seekers as possible.
A racist minority that was in fact always out there has become more visible and more vocal. And they will use the parliamentary platform to hold inflammatory speeches, sparking tweetable outrage, attracting more and more attention to themselves and their twisted, retrograde worldview. Far-right thugs might feel emboldened by the AfD’s surge – resulting in more racist violence across Germany.
It’s a depressing state of affairs, no doubt about it.
But, to use a stale bit of journalese, I am “cautiously optimistic” about the next four years. Why? Three reasons:
1. At least 80 percent of voters chose a non-racist party (I’m not including the Bavarian CSU in this category). Germany hasn’t gone over to the dark side.
2. The AfD, being primarily a protest party made up of inexperienced politicians, could self-destruct through infighting and a lack of constructive solutions. With the departure of Frauke Petry from the parliamentary group on day one, that process has already begun.
3. I’m not so depressed about the prospect of the government Angela Merkel is most likely to cobble together, the “Jamaica” coalition of her CDU, pro-business FDP yuppies and tree-hugging Greens. This strange patchwork isn’t as awful as it sounds, and could result in a more progressive Germany is some important areas…
Immigration: The Greens and the Liberals want a fair immigration law which clearly regulates the path to German citizenship. While the liberals take a stricter stance on the refugee issue, they are by no means racist and would have no problem with the Greens’ “humane” refugee policy.
Climate change: The Greens want to shut down the 20 dirtiest coal-powered power plants – the worse source of greenhouse gases in Germany by a mile. This could easily be linked to FDP calls for more “innovation” in the German economy.
State surveilance: The Greens and the FDP take a similarly strong stance on civil liberties, police monitoring and facial recognition cameras.
Education: Both the Greens and the FDP want to put a lot more money into schools.
Internet: The Greens and the FDP want to invest in broadband infrastructure. Currently Germany lags behind Romania which it comes to connection speeds.
Angela Merkel, weakened by her poor election results (down eight percentage points from 2013) would by forced to follow the two smaller parties if she wants Jamaica to work. And there’s the thorny problem of the CSU, the CDU’s super-conservative Bavarian sister, which has been bleeding support to the AfD.
Crucial issues like poverty, tax justice, exploding rents, and the many sins of the German car industry would remain points of contention. Jamaica is no utopia, but black-green-yellow is as good as we’re going get for now.