Germans concerned by rise of far right-wing politics

World Today

In this May 2, 2017 photo Armin Laschet, left, top candidate of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, and Northrhine-Westphalia governor Hannelore Kraft talk to each other before a TV debate in Cologne, western Germany. (Oliver Berg/dpa via AP)

If Marine Le Pen loses, it would be a setback for the rise of nationalism in Europe. Some had predicted a right-wing upsurge that might jeopardize the European Union. But, so far, that hasn’t materialized.

Guy Henderson reports from Germany – which heads to the ballot box this autumn.

Germans concerned by rise of far right-wing politics

If Marine Le Pen loses, it would be a setback for the rise of nationalism in Europe. Some had predicted a right-wing upsurge that might jeopardize the European Union. So far, that hasn't materialized. Guy Henderson reports from Germany - which heads to the ballot box this autumn.

Muslims at Berlin’s Turkish market are worried about the German government’s latest plans: a partial ban on the full face veil.

They argue, among other things, that it’s against German values. Germans here don’t see it that way. “I am a German Muslim, I know that for example female Muslims have to wear headscarves according to their religion, but no one has the right to enforce them to wear it – it’s everyone’s free opinion and everyone should be able to wear whatever,” said one of the German men.

Political parties are setting out their stalls ahead of a vote this autumn – in a landscape that has rapidly shifted these past couple of years.

A ban on the full face veil in some public buildings wouldn’t have a direct impact on too many people. But the politics of this move is interesting – the main party in government, bringing in a measure in the build-up to an election, that might previously have been seen as rather unpalatable by many of its core voters.

It’s part of a wider discussion that’s come to the forefront about identity. “I have a feeling that it is becoming relevant again not only because of the elections but because of the last year – where in the end hundreds of thousands of refugees with a different cultural background came to Germany, and of course we have to face a public debate on these common values,” said Stefan Evers from the Christian Democratic Party.

The rise of far right-wing parties has kept asylum and immigration issues at the top of the agenda – forcing the mainstream to respond. “Ten to 15 years ago, the academic discussion was always: why is the radical right popular in some countries and not in others This has disappeared – basically, there is more or less an established party on the radical right in nearly all western European countries,” said Tarik Abou-Chadi, a European politics expert at Humboldt University.

Whether populists gain power in Europe this year or not – they may have already played their part in transforming the debate.