The sanitary cord to the extreme right in Germany has exploded in the face to the CDU of Angela Merkel. The policy of not participating in any pact with AfD jumped through the air in Thuringia, a State of East Germany of 2.2 million inhabitants, and took this week to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of the party that had relieved Merkel ahead of the next election.
In Spain, there is no such blockade to the ultras from the right. The Popular Party did not even think about it and hastened to agree with Vox after the regional and local elections. That does not mean that it is without problems. Many leaders of the PP believe that Pablo Casado has made several mistakes by not marking distances with the Santiago Abascal party and letting him drag controversies generated by Vox to his advantage. Married cannot appeal to polls to justify his success.
In Thuringia, the regional leader of the liberals was chosen by surprise with the votes of the CDU and AfD, successfully completing the plans drawn up by the local AfD leader, Björn Höcke, while the conservatives thought that their state leaders would accept as lesser evil the permanence of Die Linke (The Left) in power. “It was a bad day for democracy,” Merkel said. “The handshake of shame,” he titled on the cover the conservative tabloid Bild with the photo of Höcke's greeting to the liberal leader in Tutingia who a day later promised to resign from the post to repeat the elections.
Höcke was also the worst possible partner. A court ruled that anyone who calls him “fascist” cannot be convicted of injury. He is the head of Flügel, the most radical AfD faction. The German internal intelligence service (BfV) considers Flügel a “suspicious case”, which allows it to investigate the group, monitor its communications and study whether it asks for its illegalization.
Even German right-wing leaders as conservative as the Interior Minister, the Bavarian of the CSU Horst Seehofer, they are clear that AfD is a toxic element that should be away from. “Any attempt to get close to the margins of the extreme right is like a poison that we cannot let seep into our party,” he said in the middle of this crisis. And that Seehofer pressed to tighten the discourse against immigration in Bavaria in order to curb the advance of AfD at the polls, an effort that did not serve to stop its own bleeding of votes.
In Spain, several leaders of the PP have recalled that the party should not be dragged by the incendiary language of the extreme right. “Vox has nothing to do with the PP. And we will be wrong if we try to compete with Vox for an electoral space, “said Esteban González Pons. Alberto Núñez Feijóo and others have made similar statements.
If the PP and Vox have nothing to do, then you have to wonder why Pablo Casado sounds so similar to the ultra party on some issues. The president of the PP began to make comparisons with Cuba and communism in the middle of the controversy over the parental veto promoted by Vox without anyone giving him time to warn him that the management of education in several autonomous communities is in the hands of governments of his party for a decade. And what Casado had asked in that speech to the leaders not to bite the hook – which, according to him, had laid the PSOE, not Vox – only minutes before biting it himself and swallowing it completely.
This week, Congress has been the scene of another attempt by the PP to overcome Vox on its right. The intervention of Deputy José Ignacio Echániz against the euthanasia bill caused “discomfort” in the party, according to sources of the PP cited by ABC, especially by the “mocked” to say that the Government promoted that measure to save money on health. “It's a mistake that creaks us,” they said.
“It could be affirmed, desolately, that the Spanish right seems to be reaching the end of a planned obsolescence, such as technological gadgets, “José Antonio Zarzalejos wrote in El Confidencial on the occasion of Echániz's speech. That could make his defrauded electorate surrender to a “catharsis” and will end up surrendering “to radicalism”, that is, to Vox.
Married rarely makes direct criticisms of Vox. The ultras leaders have had to realize and will probably have concluded that they are afraid to do so. That does nothing but encourage them.
In Germany, most of the leaders of the CDU do not cut themselves in their criticisms of AfD and are shocked when politicians like Björn Höcke speak as the neo-Nazis in describing it as “stupid” for Germany to continue remembering the Holocaust as a national tragedy. However, more and more regional deputies and party leaders are demanding the end of the isolation of AfD to use their votes when necessary.
“I cannot disdain 25% of the voters and say that I will not speak with their representatives,” he said Lars-Jörn Zimmer, deputy of the CDU for Saxony, who called for a pact in that State with AfD to form a minority government.
In 2019 there were a few who agreed with Zimmer before the regional elections of that year that gave a great result to AfD. But the main leaders stopped them dry. Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder went on to say that the councilors were not authorized to have coffee with an AfD member. Kramp-Karrenbauer accused that party of creating the “climate of opinion” that made it possible for a neo-Nazi to kill a local CDU leader in Kassel in June who had supported the integration of refugees into German society.
Lessons from the story
Nobody forgets that the support of the conservative parties was decisive in Hitler's rise to power in the 1930s. It was precisely in Thuringia that this pact was first produced in 1930 with a coalition government in which the Nazi Wilhelm Frick was appointed Minister of Interior. A few months later, the agreement was repeated in Brunswick. In 1932, the conservatives lifted the illegalization of the SA and the SS in exchange for Hitler allowing the formation of the Von Papen Government. Finally in early 1933, the right made Hitler's ascension possible to the chancellery. As Der Spiegel recalled, “a lesson from the Weimar Republic is that the extreme right came to power because the right wanted it to help it continue in power.”
The sanitary cordon against AfD has not prevented the extreme right from becoming the third national political force with 12.6% and 89 seats in the 2017 elections or that it has reached 23.4% in Thuringia – the State where the Nazis raised the Buchenwald concentration camp – 27.5% in Saxony or 23.5% in Brandenburg.
The Thuringian crisis can have dramatic effects for the CDU in that State. A survey on Friday keeps AfD in its October election numbers with 25%. The CDU falls seven points and stays at 14%. Who would benefit from the electoral repetition would be Die Linke with 40%, a historical record and almost ten points more than four months ago.
The more accommodating position of the PP is not proving very effective either. The February barometer of eldiario.es indicates that Vox could now reach 59 seats, seven more than now, and be only 3.3 points away from the PP. A 'sorpasso' starring the extreme right is no longer an absurd hypothesis.
In several countries in Europe, the traditional right has been reduced to the slightest expression by the extreme right (Italy, Poland or Hungary) and in others it has agreed to pay the price to agree with it. After years of claiming that immigration could change the cultural identity of Europe, it is not surprising that voters convinced of this have gone to parties that denounce it with more energy. The years of austerity and the increase in job insecurity have undermined the credibility of traditional politicians and created opportunities for ultras to affirm that economic problems are due to the excessive generosity of the welfare state, especially with foreigners.
For all of them, the editorial Der Spiegel had a reminder after the Thuringian crisis: “The conservatives of the Weimar Republic thought they could use Hitler. Actually, he was using them. They were in the final stage of the death of democracy without giving Count on it. Comparisons like this are imperfect, but it doesn't hurt to see the current situation as an initial phase like the one experienced a century ago. Consider it a precautionary measure. “