The victory of the AfD in Germany is a good reminder for European politicians to do something about the rise of far-right rhetoric.
The highly debated German federal elections were held on Sept. 24. As is already known, Turkey was one of the leading subjects problematized in the campaigns. The results are also very close to what the polls indicated. Angela Merkel won a fourth term as chancellor, putting her stamp on history as the most successful European politician of recent years, although the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lost around one-fourth of their vote share.
Europe has not had a powerful leader over the past years as unsteady coalitions and ineffective party chairs have been prevalent. Merkel constitutes an exception to this. Her victory is much more positive for us than Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz's victory, although she issued some remarks against Turkey with the effect of the discourses employed in campaigns. As soon as the after effects of the election settle down, Merkel will surely readopt her responsible attitude cognizant of Turkey's significance since she is able to foresee the future and understand that Germany's power relies on a well-administrated Europe that encompasses Turkey.
Although the CDU's victory is a positive result, the elections marked an alarming outcome. A far-right party gained seats in the Bundestag for the first time since World War II, which is alarming, but not surprising. Having garnered 13.5 percent of the vote, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) has overtly Islamophobic and anti-refugee positions. The consolidation of a racist party in Germany is worrisome, particularly for Germans due to the traumas of World War II.
The AfD stuck with provocative slogans throughout the campaign, such as: "Burkas? We prefer bikinis," and "New Germans? We will make them ourselves," with a picture of a white pregnant woman. So, four-and-a-half years after its establishment, the AfD achieved 13.5 percent of the vote with bigoted slogans.
Unfortunately, far-right tendencies, which have been spurred by the issue of Syrian refugees and migrants and grown in a singular way in each country according to the country's own dynamics, have been spreading across Europe like an epidemic. Similar developments have also occurred in France and the Netherlands. I think the main fault is that other leaders have also pursued far-right rhetoric instead of coming up with an antidote to the far right. Due to this urge, the run-up to the elections in Germany had no other discourses other than anti-Turkish sentiment. The Netherlands also went through a similar phase. But resorting to this cannot possibly yield the desired results. Although Merkel has won a fourth term, her vote share saw a considerable decline compared to previous elections. Schulz also lost votes, possibly by behaving like a right-wing politician instead of a social democrat. Likewise, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had the same experience in the Netherlands.
European politicians need to realize that fighting against this wave of bigotry is possible by remembering pluralist and liberal values and undauntedly challenging hatred instead of adopting nationalist and hate-filled discourses. Europe needs to embrace diversity again, and it is certain that there are millions of European voters acting with common sense who can answer that.