Hundreds of thousands of people protested across Germany this weekend after a report revealed senior members of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party attended a meeting with neo-Nazis about a mass deportation plan.
German investigative outlet Correctiv reported that in November AfD members discussed deportations of “non-assimilated” immigrants to the country, regardless of whether they had German citizenship. The talks shocked Germans, who have broadly supported an easing of restrictions for new migrants.
Rising calls to ban AfD
The AfD has surged in national polling in recent years, and opponents worry that the party could see a large turnout of votes in this year’s election. Now, calls are growing to ban the AfD outright to stem its expansion and the threat of rising far-right sentiment. Germany is sensitive to its own political history, Politico noted, describing it as “a society mindful that Adolf Hitler initially gained strength at the ballot box, with the Nazis winning a plurality of votes in federal elections before seizing power” in the 1930s. Germany’s constitution makes it possible for parties to be banned from running in an election, but such bans have only been carried out twice in the nation’s history. Banning the AfD is controversial given the party’s huge reach: “If we ban a party that we don’t like, but which is still leading in the polls, it will lead to even greater solidarity with it,” one left-leaning politician said.
AfD popularity has grown in recent polls
The AfD’s performance in regional elections late last year showed the party gaining ground outside of its usual strongholds. The party jumped by four percentage points in two regions, and received its best-ever showing in a western German state — winning support in regions that haven’t typically backed it in the past. “The AfD has developed a core constituency over the years and is better than the other parties at mobilizing its voters via social media,” German-language outlet Der Spiegel noted at the time.