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Jun 16, 2024, 11:32am EDT
Europe
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Semafor Signals

The far left and far right could unite to give Russia a win in Germany

Insights from German Marshall Fund, The German Review, and Sciences Po’s Jan Rovny

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Alternative for Germany (AfD) party co-leaders Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla.
AfD party leaders. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse/File Photo
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The European Parliament election last week resulted in gains for the far right — but also, in Germany, for the pro-Russia left.

The Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht, a new political party founded by a popular pro-Kremlin leftist politician who has voiced support for buying Russian gas and backing peace talks in Ukraine with President Vladimir Putin, enjoyed an especially strong showing in several eastern German states last week. Meanwhile, the hard-right Alternative for Germany party — also seen as Russia-friendly — placed first in those same states.

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Political analysts are now eyeing local elections in three of those states this fall, expecting a unique dynamic in which far-left and far-right parties could win big, partly for their stances on Russia and immigration — putting pressure on the German government over its posture toward Moscow.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

German state elections can have global ramifications

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Sources:  
German Marshall Fund, Hans Vorländer

In the European Parliament election, some votes for the parties on the fringes were protest votes against the German and European political establishment. The state elections in Saxony, Brandenburg, and Thuringia, though, “might have an even stronger impact on the federal government,” possibly by creating more obstacles to Ukraine support or hardening migration policy, Dresden-based political scientist Hans Vorländer told Semafor. Coalition negotiations will determine whether the ruling center-right party remains the “lead firewall” against the far-right AfD in the states, but regardless, a strong showing from the far left or far right would put pressure on the already-strained federal government.

East Germans ‘don’t like Russia’ but have learned not to provoke it

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Sources:  
The German Review, Hans Vorländer

The European Parliament election results showed a stark divide between former East and West Germany, with nearly every constituency in the former Eastern bloc going to the far-right AfD, prompting one economist to comment, “Who said that Germany reunified?” An academic from Saxony told The German Review newsletter that despite their support for Russia-friendly parties, “east Germans don’t like Russia. Instead, they learned during the Cold War that it’s better not to provoke the Kremlin.” Analysts had warned of Russian influence campaigns during the European elections to boost support for far-right parties. In eastern Germany, though, support for the AfD’s stance on Russia and migration has become so entrenched that “there is no influence necessary,” political scientist Hans Vorländer told Semafor.

The far left and far right wave different colored flags, but are ultimately similar

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Jan Rovny

In Western Europe, some on the right are now paying lip service to all sorts of “left-ish” economic policies to attract socially underprivileged voters, while symbolically left-wing parties couch their arguments about greater welfare in nativist rhetoric, Jan Rovny, a political sciences professor at Sciences Po, told Semafor. The far left projects a misplaced nostalgia onto Russia as the “carrier of some kind of Soviet heritage,” he argued, while the right see Putin as an emblem of “Christian, traditional, masculinist Europe.” Strikingly, rather than warring against each other, nationalists today view themselves as providing a united bulwark in the face of a perceived common enemy, Rovny said.

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