There is a constructive path aheadby Sophie Gaston / September 26, 2017 / Leave a comment
In the stunned aftermath of the German elections, a contest that during the campaign had been almost universally dismissed as so dull even the Russians couldn’t be bothered hacking it, all eyes have been on the early insights from the exit polls surveying AfD voters, who have propelled the far-right party into the Bundestag for the first time.
The German exit poll tells us not just how people voted but their motivations for doing so, and the data presents an increasingly familiar picture: mainly men, concentrated in one geographical area—this time, the East—who are not particularly economically anxious, but extremely culturally sensitive to immigration.
It is now well-established that community-level concerns about immigration relate not just to the size of the migrant population but also the pace of demographic change. The concerns are both practical—such as impacts on public services—and social in nature; focus groups in these areas often reveal a sense of transformation “overnight,” in which citizens say they can feel “like a stranger in my own country.” Of course, many citizens with scarce interaction with people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds also carry anxieties about immigration, linked to a more diffuse sense of cultural dislocation.
In Germany, the citizens tempted by the AfD whom I have come across over the past year are, as you would expect, outraged about the migration crisis and would undoubtedly like to see a reduction in immigration numbers across the board. But their anger is not simply directly towards the newcomers themselves, many of whom they appreciate are simply making the most of opportunities they have been given.
“Around 60 per cent of AfD supporters cast their vote in rejection of ‘all other parties.’”
Rather, their grievances fall squarely at the feet of Angela Merkel and her government, whom they accuse of corrupting parliamentary processes through taking unilateral action without public consultation. Linked to this, is a visceral feeling that all public debate, and certainly dissent, around the migration crisis has been suppressed by the establishment—politicians and the media alike—in a kind of elite conspiracy to prioritise institutional power over social cohesion.
They rail against the homogeneity the government projects…