Just 16 months ago, AfD supporters were shouting "Merkel has to go". On Saturday, around 10,000 participants at a party rally in Berlin chanted loudly: "Habeck has to go." First of all, this shows how easy it is for this political milieu to simply exchange names in categorical resistance to all "old parties" - i.e. from the former Chancellor the CDU to switch to today's Federal Economics Minister of the Greens. In addition, however, a thematic shift is also recognizable. And that is doubly attractive for the AfD.
On the one hand, after years of stagnation, the far-right party is experiencing increasing popularity again, since economic policy has determined the debates with fears of recession and enormously rising energy prices: the polls of the AfD, which blames the crisis entirely on the traffic light coalition, are 14 to 15 percent in the federal government increased, in the eastern part to significantly more. Even in the notorious problem state of the AfD, Lower Saxony, the divided state association ranks at around ten percent before today's state election. Accordingly, the motto of the Berlin demonstration (“Energy security and protection against inflation, our country first”) was the self-cheering of a party that seems to have found a successful topic again. The usual polemical action can also be taken: AfD Deputy Peter Boehringer described Minister of Economics Habeck as a “contract killer in our economy”.
On the other hand, the current topic of economic policy has the advantage for the AfD that at first glance it seems less extremist than it was during Merkel's chancellorship when it came to the topics of migration, climate protection and Corona. At that time, numerous cases of group-related enmity, scientific denial and conspiracy ideology revealed the right-wing extremist and sometimes right-wing extremist tendencies of the party.
Now AfD politicians can act as mere critics of economic policy and give the impression that they are purely objective. "Germany needs a government of experts," the other AfD deputy Stephan Brandner called out to the demonstrators in Berlin and presented the party program as a master plan for the recovery of the country: "The AfD program must be implemented piece by piece by experts."
Berlin's head of state Kristin Brinker was also factual and focused on the financial: "We are all here today because we are all being asked to pay." The party and parliamentary group leader Tino Chrupalla was also the main speaker - his double boss colleague Alice Weidel had called in sick at short notice - extensively with the gas price brake and the German energy mix. He attacked one party in particular: "The Greens in particular want our country to become poor and weak."
With Chrupalla, however, it also became clear which ideologies are driving the current furor of the party. So Chrupalla appealed to the need to be able to feel superior to other peoples as a German through prosperity. He called out to those present: "You could ride the train for nine euros, so you know what train travel is like in India."
Above all, however, Chrupalla made it clear how little he and his party value Ukraine's struggle for survival and freedom against the Russian war of aggression, and how important it is for them to do business with the aggressor. "The price of gas will return to normal if we get cheap gas from Russia," Chrupalla shouted. He called for the repair and opening of both Nord Stream pipelines, claiming, “Habeck has declared economic war on Russia. In reality, he is waging this war against our own country.” Referring to Ukraine, Chrupalla repeated his formula of war having “several fathers”. However, he did not then name Putin, but in addition to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also the German Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD) because of his Twitter statement that there was a war with Russia.
And so there were numerous expressions of sympathy from the demonstrators. While Ukraine flags were missing, around 20 Russian ones were waved. One participant had even sewn a symbolic state merger, a flag that consists half of the German black-red-gold and the Russian white-blue-red. “I want Russian gas and oil!” read one poster.
These attitudes had already been clearly served by the AfD last Monday. At a rally in Gera, Thuringia's head of state, Björn Höcke, claimed "that the Germans and the Russians have a similar mental character" and that the USA "with their primitive sense of mission" had "driven the Germans into a war".
Apparently, this could not be presented so bluntly at the demo in Berlin. Here the number of counter-demonstrators was around 1,500, significantly higher than in Gera. There were no incidents - also because of a large police presence - until the afternoon.