by Katja Hoyer
Friday, 30
September 2022
Analysis
10:05

AfD support surges in east Germany

Soaring energy prices and rising unemployment is driving voters to the Right
by Katja Hoyer
Supporters take part in an “Our Country First!” demonstration in the eastern state of Thuringia

“Bring an extra jumper, we can’t afford to heat the house properly this year,” was my aunt’s cheerful advice when I told her I’d drop by on my annual Christmas visit to Germany. She lives in Thuringia, in the former East of the country. Like her, many people there are deeply concerned about the coming winter — the mood has reached a tipping point, which is spilling into politics.

A new poll showed that the Right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) would emerge as the strongest political force in the former East Germany were elections held now. 27% of people there would vote for them while only 12% of former West Germans would.

While the AfD has long enjoyed higher support from voters in the east than in the west, the latest figures still show a remarkable swing. Take my native state of Brandenburg: in the general election last year, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) under Olaf Scholz won there, gaining 30%. The AfD came in second with 18%. Now the parties are neck and neck with 24% each.

The AfD has seen a steady rise in popularity since June when the energy crisis gathered speed and Russia first began cutting its gas deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Electricity prices are now twice as high as they were at the beginning of the year, driven up by gas costs which have more than doubled since the end of June alone.

“This difficult time is reflected in the polls,” said the General Secretary of Brandenburg’s SPD branch David Kolesnyk, “People expect answers as to how they can get through the winter.” Such answers are promised by the AfD, whose chairman Tino Chrupalla is hoping for a ‘hot autumn’ of discontent.

His new “Our Country First” campaign demands a bundle of measures to fix the energy prices, including an end to sanctions on Russia, the scrapping of green taxes on fuel and gas, the temporary scrapping of VAT on fuels and food, as well as the full exploitation of all domestic energy resources.

This radical programme is appealing to more people in the former East because the economic situation there is much worse than in the former West. People in the former West still earn around €500 a month more than their compatriots in the former East while the costs of living is nearly the same. Pensioners get €176 less.

Unemployment has also always been higher in the east. Now that energy prices are beginning to erode local businesses there, they have begun to cut working hours or lay off staff. My aunt, who works in the car industry, has been asked to take all of her remaining annual leave. Following that, her hours will be reduced in an effort to save the company.

As livelihoods erode at startling speed, Berlin seems to be slow to respond. Many people in east Germany feel forgotten and belittled. Meanwhile, the AfD has built a local network of party activists who organise protest marches and events in the places where anger is building up. In contrast to the ruling coalition in Berlin they get their messages across, loud and clear.

The government has already committed €100 billion to help deal with rising energy prices, and it is currently debating how and if they should invest up to €200 billion more. But, so far, the plans have taken too long to have a tangible effect on the ground.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised Germans: “You’ll never walk alone.” It was a message intended to reassure all his citizens that nobody will be left behind this winter. It will take more than words to convince those planning for a cold Christmas that he means it.

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Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
2 months ago

A few days ago there was a raid on the AfD headquarters in Berlin (as reported by DW News). I don’t know the full story, but I imagine this would further antagonise their growing support in East Germany and develop further sympathy towards the AfD.

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
2 months ago

When the Left fails, the headlines blare that the consequences of those failures are “driving people to the right”. Please. That is hyperbole. When people see that one political agenda has failed, they look for an alternative. How’s that for a headline?

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
1 month ago
Reply to  Gerald Arcuri

Alternative für Deutschland?

Michael McDonald
Michael McDonald
2 months ago

Attack on Nord Stream has worsened the crisis. Incredibly, it seems most likely the US did this. The damage done to Western unity far exceeds short term cost to Russia.

peter barker
peter barker
2 months ago

To whom does it seem most likely that the US did it? Nearly every analysis I’ve seen (from various sources in various countries) suspects Russia did it.

Ian Johnston
Ian Johnston
2 months ago
Reply to  peter barker

Hahaha.

Your belief in the messaging of the Western media claque when it comes to the war in Ukraine is naivete to the point of a pathology.

You’re being played.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian Johnston

And of course you aren’t being played, are you?

peter barker
peter barker
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian Johnston

No I gather information from a wide range of sources and use my analytical skills and my 72 years of life experience to come to conclusions/ suppositions. I find it more satisfying than following the latest conspiracy theories or listening to people with ulterior motives.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian Johnston

And you believe the messaging of the Russian media? The western one certainly has its faults but I’d trust it above anything that comes from the Kremlins output

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
2 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

At this point, really hard to say!

C Yonge
C Yonge
2 months ago
Reply to  peter barker

What do they say was Russia’s motivation to do that?

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 months ago
Reply to  C Yonge

Given the remarks from many quarters about Putin’s mental state, does a man in that state need a motive – or; Lets stir the s&1t a bit to throw people off the scent. According to Moscow it was neither Russia or USA – it was us Brits ‘wot dun it’, Moscow citing in evidence that “someone” had seen British SCUBA divers in the area recently. Diving in that depth of water is not the normal thing that scooby-doos engage in. It would require saturation diving possibly using a Bell or a specially equipt submersible. Small ‘Alvins’ would work but the Mother-ship’s presence would be noted, especially with the ‘war’ just over the horizon. Would we Brits do something like that in Russia’s backyard??

William Adams
William Adams
1 month ago
Reply to  C Yonge

The pipeline will never be used again so Russia did it as a warning of its capabilities.

David Sims
David Sims
2 months ago
Reply to  peter barker

What would Russia possibly stand to gain from sabotaging their own hugely profitable pipeline?

William Adams
William Adams
1 month ago
Reply to  David Sims

Russia has lost its western customers permanently so the pipelines are redundant. Putin wants to demonstrate that it can do it to our pipelines from Norway, as well as undersea cables.

Last edited 1 month ago by David Bell
Glyn R
Glyn R
1 month ago
Reply to  peter barker

Are you aware that President Biden promised to destroy the pipelines back in February and Victoria Nuland also stated that ‘one way or another’ NS2 would not go forward in the event of invasion?
These statements are not necessarily a smoking gun but they do arouse suspicions and doubt that is far from unreasonable as to be smeared and brushed aside as ‘conspiracy theory’.
Had Boris Johnson or any other leader promised similar and it had happened I am sure fingers would be pointed in their directions too.

John McKee
John McKee
1 month ago
Reply to  peter barker

????????????????????????????

Aaron James
Aaron James
2 months ago

The Nord Stream has several consequences. It means the new normal is the normal as returning to that gas source is done.

But mostly is says – all undersea Communications cables and pipelines are vulnerable. We always worried about hacking and e-sabotage of grids and transport. The fact Russia did not bring down Ukraine’s indicates that is hard. But this – this was easy, and the fix is hard.

It means War has just done one of those Paradigm shifts like the airplane brought to WWII and the Tank to WWII, and now communications and energy lines underwater.

If the ability do do this thing is well developed – it will carry greater effect than the battlefield nukes – it will bring down the modern world as we know it.

John Aronsson
John Aronsson
2 months ago
Reply to  Aaron James

With Nordstream 1 and 2 destroyed it means Germany simply cannot go back to Russian natural gas any time soon. That seems to benefit the Biden regime and NATO above all others.

Last edited 2 months ago by John Aronsson
William Adams
William Adams
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron James

My view, as well.

William Adams
William Adams
1 month ago

Since the popelines weren’t in use how has it worsened the crisis and what is your evidence that the U.S was responsible?

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
1 month ago

That is highly unlikely … it points very much to Putin rattling his sabre again … Putin has set his country back to the Cold War terms and conditions … what a fool

Robert Cooksey
Robert Cooksey
2 months ago

I never knew Chancellor Olaf Scholz was a Liverpool supporter…

Roy Mullins
Roy Mullins
1 month ago

“Our country first” sounds like self preservation – is it right wing ?

Glyn R
Glyn R
1 month ago

Frankly, is it any wonder!

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
1 month ago

What struck me was the AfD advocating the dropping of sanctions on Russia … Germany is suspect in this whole Russia/ND1/ND2 set up but clearly it runs deep right across their political divides.
Germany is not European … it is mercantilist first and foremost … and they see huge advantage in a close tie up with mineral rich Russia

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
2 months ago

An analyst (retired US military) I listened to today thinks Ukraine is most likely to have done it. Sorry I can’t remember what he said about how it would be an advantage to them.

Last edited 2 months ago by betsyarehart
D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago
Reply to  Betsy Arehart

How would they get from the Black Sea to the Baltic undetected? It has to be a state actor, and only Russia and the US really have the capability.