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Another regional election defeat for Merkel, as German leader’s party beaten by right-wing AfD

RT | October 27, 2019

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) lost yet another regional election, coming behind both left-wing Linke and right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the eastern state of Thuringia.

It’s not the first time in 2019 that Germany’s ruling party has taken a hammering in local polls. Merkel’s CDU and its coalition partner, the left-wing Social Democrats (SPD) already saw their formerly safe lead in Saxony and Brandenburg eroded last month by the rise of the AfD.

The AfD, which surged from nothing into third place in 2017’s federal elections, took 23.8 percent of the vote in Thuringia, according to exit polls released Sunday. Merkel’s CDU took 22.5 percent. The left-wing Linke won the state, taking 29.7 percent of the vote.

At the back of the pack, the SPD took 8.5 percent, while the Greens took 5.4.

For the AfD, pipping the CDU into second place is a major coup, considering the party only managed to win 10 percent in the last election in 2014. Back then, the CDU was the overall winner, with 33.5 percent, though Linke, the SPD, and the Greens would band together to form a coalition government.

For the CDU and SPD, Sunday’s results are the worst since reunification three decades ago.

Thuringia is a small state with a population of 2.1 million that used to be part of the Eastern Bloc.

Though the CDU and SPD remain in power in the west of the country, the ruling centrists have seen their support eviscerated in the east, pointing to a culture clash of sorts between both sides of the old Cold War-era border. The east remains relatively disadvantaged compared to the west, and the AfD has courted the region’s electorate by opposing the closure of coal mines and calling for urban regeneration.

Linke too has positioned itself as a champion of the working class, promising increased social spending, a raised minimum wage, and tax increases on the wealthy.

Opposition to Merkel’s ‘open door’ immigration policies saw the AfD initially surge in popularity, after the chancellor welcomed more than a million migrants to Germany in 2015. Since then, the party has found support in the east, where public opinion against immigration is strongest.

And, while Germany’s green party enjoyed strong support in this summer’s European elections, its share of the vote remained stagnant in Thuringia, suggesting that the environmentalism currently in vogue in the west finds few fans in poorer parts of the country.

“Thuringians have voted for the Wende 2.0,” Bjoern Hoecke, the AfD’s leader in the state, said on Sunday. “This is a clear sign that a large part of Thuringia says: This can’t go on. We need renewal – this should be taken seriously.”

“Wende” is a German word meaning “turnaround,” and was used to describe the collapse of East Germany three deacdes ago. AfD leaders have repeatedly used the phrase on the campaign trail in eastern states, suggesting that the demise of Merkel’s centrism is every bit the revolution the fall of communism was.

With the center gutted and the AfD and Linke taking the most votes, there is little in common between both parties, save for a more friendly attitude to relations with Russia than Merkel’s. Both are currently enjoying more support than would have been imaginable in 2014, though every single mainstream German party has ruled out working with the AfD.

October 27, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

AfD MP: ‘We Refuse to Support the US Gas Industry at Germany’s Expense’

Sputnik – August 24, 2018

Despite opposition to the Nord Stream II pipeline from some Eastern Europe states, the consortium of energy companies involved in the joint venture are going ahead with the project.

Sputnik reporter Suliman Mulhem spoke to Christian Blex, a representative of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party in the Bundestag, about the proposed pipeline and the untapped potential of bilateral EU-Russia trade.

Europe’s Dilemma

Europe’s growing demand for natural gas, coupled with falling production in many longstanding European natural gas exporters, such as Norway, has put the region on course to face an energy deficit unless it swiftly alters its energy mix or builds the necessary midstream infrastructure to import more natural gas from Russia.

A move away from natural gas is unlikely to happen, as it is unrivaled by most alternatives in terms of affordability, abundance, and is significantly more eco-friendly than other fossil fuels, such as coal.

Alternatively, Europe could look to make up its energy shortfall by importing US liquefied natural gas (LNG), though, as Dr. Blex explained, this course of action is riddled with drawbacks and is not in Germany’s interests.

“The position of the AfD is that Germany should make an interest-based policy and due to the current economic climate and the German government’s recent policies, we must focus on importing. As Russia currently supplies the cheapest option in the form of natural gas, it is only logical that we import from them,” Dr. Blex told Sputnik on Friday.

“Since the US cannot currently compete in terms of both price and infrastructure, the idea of seriously switching to US gas is a pipe dreams. In addition, the AfD refuses to support the US gas industry at the expense of Germany, or to solely serve Washington’s geostrategic interests.”

Baseless Prophecies

Dr. Blex expressed his support for Nord Stream II, insisting that it will benefit Germany and the wider European economy, dismissing concerns that Moscow could use Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas as leverage over the continent.

“Despite all the prophecies of doubts about the danger of a Russian monopoly position and the associated blackmail potential, as well as its alleged political uncertainty as a partner, Russia has always reliably adhered to its supply contracts with Germany over the past 30 years, which is why we regard Russia to be a reliable partner. As long as this remains so, I see no need to orient ourselves elsewhere,” Dr. Blex said.

In fact, this is more likely to be an issue if Europe swapped out Russian natural gas for US LNG, as the Trump administration has repeatedly showed itself to be an unreliable partner, with President Trump withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and recklessly imposing tariffs against several key US trade partners in 2018.

In virtually every case of opposition to Nord Stream II, the critic has a vested interest in preventing the pipeline’s completion; Russian natural gas is perhaps the single largest barrier to US LNG taking over Europe’s energy market, while some European states are keen to hinder the project to ensure their revenue streams from existing Russian gas transit deals aren’t slashed.

Undisputed Potential & Future Relations

Although Europe maintains a fruitful partnership with Russia in the energy sector, sanctions and the contemporary political climate have inhibited both sides from exploring new avenues and benefiting from the untapped economic potential an amicable relationship offers.

Dr. Blex noted this “tremendous potential,” and voiced concerns of German and other European businesses being adversely affected by the sanctions, saying, “It is undisputed that trade between the European Union and Russia has tremendous potential. German companies in the automotive, chemical and electronic industries suffered losses due to sanctions. Normalization of relations is therefore of Russian as well as European and German interest.”

EU farmers have often protested against the sanctions, dumping their produce on the streets, as they’ve been hit hard by the sanctions.

“The AfD advocates ending the sanctions,” the German MP added.

Moreover, the Bundestag member called for a “pan-European policy” that fosters better political and economic relations with Russia, but said the current German federal government is unlikely to adopt such an approach.

“A pan-European policy that strengthens economic relations with Russia would be desirable. Unfortunately, the political will for this geostrategic reasoning does not yet exist; the Merkel government is against it.”

However, Dr. Blex described himself as optimistic “that the steady increase in power of the AfD” will shift Germany’s stance and lead to a more productive relationship with Russia.

“I therefore hope that in the long term, throughout the EU, there will be a recognition that Russia must be seen as a partner rather than an enemy,” Dr. Blex concluded.

August 24, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

Germany’s AfD Party Passes Resolution to Lift EU Sanctions Against Syria

By Suliman Mulhem – Sputnik – July 4, 2018

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party is continuing its efforts to repatriate Syrian refugees, formally urging the German federal government and the EU to lift their debilitating economic sanctions against the Arab Republic.

Earlier this month at a party convention in Augsburg, AfD politicians passed a resolution calling for the lifting of EU economic sanctions against Syria in a bid to aid Damascus’ ongoing efforts to stabilize the entirety of the country and provide adequate public services, according to a party press release sent to Sputnik reporter Suliman Mulhem.

The resolution was submitted by Dr. Christian Blex and a number of other party officials who visited Syria in March to assess the situation on the ground for themselves.

Presenting the resolution at a party conference, Bundestag member Dr. Blex warned of the detrimental effects of the sanctions on the availability of healthcare for Syrians who decided to remain in their home country, especially those on low incomes and with limited resources to seek treatment abroad.

“They [the sanctions] target human beings who the European states allegedly want to protect. The EU sanctions against Syria are a cause of flight; its removal would even benefit Germany’s economy,” Dr. Blex said.

“We demand Germany be no longer complicit in the sanctions, which are an instrument of power against the current government. A prolongation of the suffering of the Syrian people to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad is incompatible with AfD-principles and not in the German national interest,” the resolution reads.

Moreover, the resolution called on the German government and the EU itself to reinstate diplomatic relations with Damascus to “find a solution which secures the country’s peaceful rebuilding process,” highlighting that rebuilding Syria and reviving its national economy is firmly in Germany’s interests, as it’s necessary for the repatriation of Syrian migrants.

AfD members also passed a resolution on July 1 condemning the tripartite aggression by the UK, US and France against Syria earlier this year as a “violation of international law.”

The coordinated strikes were carried in retaliation to an alleged chemical attack which was blamed on the Syrian government, despite Damascus staunchly denying any involvement and having no motive to carry out such an attack.

READ MORE:

EU Sanctions Have ‘Disastrous’ Effects on Syria’s Civilian Population – AfD MP

July 4, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

AfD MPs in Damascus: Media Coverage of Syrian Conflict is Fundamentally Untrue

Sputnik – March 8, 2108

Despite the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommending to withhold the trip to Syria, several members from the AfD took the risk of visiting the war-torn country.

A group of seven politicians from the right-wing party “Alternative for Germany” has visited Syria to find out whether the country is safe, citing a lack of trust in the media’s coverage of the conflict.

“We have set out to Syria in order to receive information about the humanitarian situation in the country on-site. We do not rely exclusively on media coverage, which paints a horrifying picture of the developments, we want to find out what the living conditions are,” Christian Blex, an AfD parliamentarian from the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) told Sputnik.

Shell-Holes from Terrorist Mortar Attack in Cathedral

The delegation entered Syria from Lebanon on March 5, with its first destination being the country’s capital, Damascus. Firstly, the politicians met with religious figures.

“What the state media won’t tell: On February 5, “moderate” terrorists from Eastern Ghouta shelled a Syrian Orthodox Church with mortars. The altar and floor were damaged, fortunately, no one was hurt,” Blex wrote on Twitter.

The group held a meeting with Syrian Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun, who reportedly called for Syrian refugees to return home. Christian Blex posted a picture from the meeting on his Twitter:

“His excellence Syria’s Grand Mufti has emphasized how important the separation of various religions from the state is for their peaceful coexistence in this country. It is also of particular importance to him that Christians in Syria have equal rights with people of other religions,” Blex explained.

The delegation managed to speak to the representative of the Patriarch of Damascus, who supported the Grand Mufti’s aspirations.

“We have also visited the cathedral. They showed us shell-holes, caused by the terrorists’ mortar attack on February 5,” said Blex.

Desire to Restore Normal Diplomatic Relations

The AfD delegation also plans to hold meetings with senior Syrian officials and politicians. They have spoken to the minister of state for national reconciliation affairs about the Syrian government’s program, aimed at reintegrating the rebels into peaceful life.

“The government grants amnesty to people willing to reintegrate into peaceful life, as long as they have not committed war crimes. There is a whole array of people, and even cities that are ready to reintegrate, seeking negotiations. […] They also told us about the background of terrorist groups in Syria and foreign influence on these groups: some are financed by Turkey; others are funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar or the United States. We have also found out that the United States maintains its bases in Syria in violation of the norms of international law,” Blex elaborated.

“The meeting with Mr Ali Haidar, the minister for national reconciliation on Tuesday evening. He told us that over 100,000 former militants (fighting against the government) have returned to peaceful life following the amnesty. More than 100 municipalities and towns have been reintegrated into peaceful life.”

Furthermore, it appears that Syria is in dire need of labor and would be glad if those Syrians who left for Germany returned home. Blex has also said that the minister of foreign affairs told the delegation that the officials were aware of Syrians with Islamist background living in Germany.

“He warned us against letting people who may be dangerous into the country. But he also wants to restore normal diplomatic relations with our country,” Blex said, saying that another topic on the agenda was Turkey’s military operation in Afrin, which has spurred outrage among Syrians.

Is Syria a Safe Country of Origin?

The first two days of the trip the group spent in Damascus, with politicians being impressed by the cleanliness of the streets and the peaceful life in the city. However, the AfD members preferred to steer clear of the territories being constantly shelled from Eastern Ghouta.

“I can only say that Damascus is worth visiting. People are polite and the food is very delicious. Nevertheless, keep in mind the old Arab saying: God bless those who pay visits – but short ones,” he wrote on Twitter.

When asked whether Syria was a safe country of origin, Blex said that the first impression was that it was, although said that they could not make a conclusion based on what they had already seen.

“We didn’t see any danger on our way from Lebanese border to Damascus. Certainly, there is some threat closer to the territories, where terrorists are, due to the shelling. But they are limited to several regions in Syria. As soon as we visit Homs and Aleppo, we will have a full picture of the situation. For now, I would share the US’s evaluation and say that Syria is a safe country,” Blex told Sputnik.

“At the fair in Damascus. Usual weekdays. Modern shops. Women in headscarves and without them. It’s hard to believe that tens of thousands of Syrian men are in Germany now, and their families have yet to join them…”

Criticism from German Politicians and Media

While AfD MPs continue their journey through Syria, many colleagues have lashed out at them at home.

“It’s unnatural to meet with the criminal clique, while the dictator Assad uses bombs and poison gas,” said an outraged Michael Brand, human rights representative from the faction CDU/CSU in the Bundestag.

He called the Syrian Grand Mufti “brutal Assad’s Grand Mufti who has called on suicide-bombers to commit terrorist attacks in Europe and has personally approved of thousands of death sentences.”

Rolf Mützenich, expert on foreign policy from the SPD, insisted that the trip would have repercussions in the Bundestag.

“It will be discussed in [parliamentary] committees. The Council of Elders will also check who has financed the trip,” Zeit newspaper cited him as saying.

While other German daily newspapers have also slammed the trip, Christian Blex said that they are distorting the facts, as the Grand Mufti is a very peace-loving and educated person, and the reports about the developments in the country are also one-sided.

“They also report about the government forces’ offensive in Eastern Ghouta all the time. However, they conceal the fact that terrorists from Eastern Ghouta are shelling civilians and hospitals. They do not report it, because such information does not fit well into this black-and-white picture. What a shame, in such a country as Germany, which is a democracy, there is an obvious lack of information flow and honest coverage of events in the area. I believe that German media coverage of Syrian conflict is fundamentally untrue,” he said.

March 8, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment