Saxony, Germany – Doreen, a salesman at a clothing store, is in the town square of Gorlitz, which is rapidly filling up with supporters of the German (AFD) party.
Around him, a large gray-haired crowd swells into the hundreds.
A band plays Dior Strait and a placard reads: “We share our pensions, but not with the whole world: solidarity requires borders.”
The event’s headliners are the party’s two prominent faces-parliamentary leader Alice Waddell and co-chair Tino Krupalla, a businessman and painter from Garlitz, who ousted the Conservative incumbent in 2017 to claim a district seat in the federal parliament.
“He’s a good man,” Doreen told Al Jazeera. “That’s what many are thinking,” he said.
Originally founded to oppose the eurozone, the AFD has played a key role in opposing immigrants and asylum seekers in Germany, finally reacting to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policy in the federal parliament for the first time in 2017.
It won 4 seats, making it the largest opposition party, with most of its support coming from the East German states.
Since then, it has established itself in all state legislatures, where it has campaigned against immigration, climate protection, LGBTQ rights, socialism and the European Union.
The AFD has become even more Nativist under the growing influence of its eastern branch, where leading figures include Bijaran Hoque, a radical who once called Berlin’s Holocaust memorial a “shameful monument.”
According to local media reports, Germany’s internal intelligence agency monitored the group in March on suspicion of being involved in right-wing “extremism.”
For most of the past two years, the AFD was initially plagued by the coronavirus epidemic as immigration voters were left out of priority, before the government took drastic action against lockdown measures and spoke out in favor of the right to refuse vaccines.
The party is voting about 11 percent nationally, down from the 13 percent it received in 2017.
But a historically weak campaign by Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has created an open in Saxony, where Garlitz is located, and the party points to her strong support.
A survey released by Insa last week put the AFD 2 percent ahead of Saxony and put them in a polar position. It is predicted to significantly increase the share of directly elected representatives across the state, which will lead in almost every district outside the big cities.
“The difference is in previous years [Merkel’s] The CDU is doing very, very badly nowadays; Especially in federal elections. And so all of a sudden, the AFD is becoming the strongest team, ”said Mike Harold, a political scientist at the Technical University near Dresden.
Much protected from Allied bombings in World War II, Garlitz boasts of Germany’s most stunning architecture.
A popular backdrop for period TV series and film productions, including The Grand Budapest Hotel and Inglourious Basterds, is the curved alley and pastel-fronted houses of “Garlywood”.
The city is located on the Polish border, marked by the Nice River. The border has not been inspected since Poland entered the Shenzhen area in 200 Po, where residents have been allowed to walk across the bridge to buy cheap cigarettes at Sloget.
The AFD intercloper – a well-proven fear of criminals and hundreds of immigrant families from Iraq – has raised fears that it is becoming unrecognizable in Germany.
1 After the German reunion in 1990, Garlitz shared the downward trajectory of many former communist East cities.
State-run factories were privatized and shut down, including a power plant with 6,000 workers. As unemployment rises, younger residents move elsewhere to find work, and the population shrinks by a quarter.
With an average age of 53.4, the Gorlitz district is the oldest in Europe today, according to Eurostat.
Like other parts of Saxony, it was particularly severely damaged by the epidemic. The state has recorded more per capita deaths than any other state in Germany, and the vaccination rate is the lowest – only 5 percent completely jabbed compared to just one percent.
Still, Saxony residents – even AFD voters – have a favorable assessment of their lives and economic conditions, the Herald said, but they realize they are being excluded from greater prosperity in the West.
“The main thing is not the real inequality, but there is a sense of inequality, which is deeply ingrained in people’s minds.”
Fear of migration, covid vaccine
After a speech by Wiedel in an effort to introduce the federal government’s mandatory vaccination “through the back door,” Krupalla shouted loudly on stage.
He praised the Danish government for its tough stance on immigration, warning that the Taliban’s occupation of Afghanistan was already driving a new wave of migrants to Germany, and said Germany should follow Copenhagen’s stated goal of accepting zero asylum seekers.
“We want to decide for ourselves in Germany who can come and who can stay,” he told the crowd.
He also hit other known AFD targets যে conservatives who abandoned their constituents, government that shut down business with rules and bureaucracy, and health officials who are terrified of Kovid-1 and want to vaccinate children without their parents’ consent.
Saxony’s CDU-led government ordered public funding, leaving small towns like Garlitz towards the state capital, Dresden.
“Like 1990, we are being deceived again,” he said.
Lutz Chupalla, a construction worker from nearby Jittau, was interested in talking.
He once supported the Social Democrats, then the CDU, and now he only trusts the AFD.
Issues such as population, aging poverty, rising inflation and stable wages are being ignored by the political elite. The focus on climate is a particular bugbear.
“Climate change is the biggest bad thing,” he said. Germany can’t save the world … everyone in the brain knows that.
Throughout the speech, chanting and chanting came from behind the square, where a small, small and masked group countered.
One of the organizers, Caroline Rainer, studied at Gorlitz for five years, but originally came from Brandenburg, which was formerly part of East Germany.
“People are just dissatisfied, and when they are dissatisfied, they look for an outlet and then they look for someone to vent their anger,” Green Party activist told Al Jazeera. “The AFD just used it and said there’s an enemy here, they’re foreigners.”
He hopes to live in Glitrlitz long term, and does not want to be defined by it too right.
“We have a large number of engaged people here who are committed to a diverse society. It’s not just brown and blue. It’s not just the Nazis. ”
No matter how well the AFD works, it will be an alien to other parties, all of whom refuse to cooperate with it at the federal or regional level.
But the party may still be upset at Saxony.
“We will win another [this weekend]. I am sure, ”Chupalla announced from the stage.
“Then we’ll look at their faces again in Dresden and Berlin and not know what they’re going to say – and we’ll laugh at ourselves.”