Is now the time to ban the AfD?
Sometimes it takes an unpolitical event to help us to really understand the public mood.
Noisy protests against Olaf Scholz are nothing new. Whenever he heads out to meet the public, organised groups of far-Right belligerents come out to heckle him. Such events tell us nothing about the wider mood, though.
On Sunday, something else happened. When Scholz went to watch Germany’s national handball team take on Macedonia in the European Championships, he was greeted in the stadium by a chorus of whistles and boos.
If even fans at a family-friendly sports event are jeering the chancellor, he’s in big trouble. Over the past few weeks, a seething frustration with the government seems to have tipped over into outright anger.
As farmers and lorry drivers clog up the streets in protest, train drivers strike and the economy continues to tank, Scholz’ Social Democrats (SPD) are slumping ever further in polling (now at 13 percent).
The SPD are obviously panicking. Suddenly, rumours are circulating of conspiracies to oust Scholz before the next election. If newspaper reports are to be believed, some in the party want to replace him with the wildly popular defence minister, Boris Pistorius.
I’m writing this off as media gossip for now. But, if the SPD gets wiped out at all three state elections happening this autumn, then Scholz will be in big trouble.
While the SPD continue to plummet in voters’ affection, the far-Right AfD are still flying on 22 percent.
Revelations from earlier this month that some of their members took part in a private discussion on deporting millions of immigrants - including some who hold German passports - don’t seem to have done any harm to their popularity.
For many others though, that meeting between senior AfD members and neo-Nazis is definitive proof that the party should be banned from taking part in elections. Tens of thousands have taken to the streets of cities like Cologne and Berlin in recent days to call for a case to be made against them at the constitutional court.
Even leading politicians from the mainstream parties have started to ask whether its time to put an end to the AfD, which was set up a decade ago.
But, is making a party verboten really that simple? And, would banning the second most popular in the country really be a democratic solution to the problem?