Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) took a stand against the right with thousands of people in Potsdam on Sunday. “I stand here as one of thousands of Potsdam residents who stand up for democracy and against old and new fascism,” Baerbock told the German Press Agency. The Chancellor also lives in the state capital and, like Baerbock, has his constituency there.
After it became known that right-wing activists were meeting in Potsdam with AfD politicians, thousands gathered in several cities over the weekend for anti-right-wing demonstrations. According to the initiator, Mayor Mike Schubert, there were 10,000 participants in Potsdam.
In Berlin, thousands demonstrated against right-wing extremism in front of the Brandenburg Gate. According to a police spokeswoman, “several thousand” participants initially gathered on Sunday afternoon. A spokeswoman for the climate protection group Fridays for Future, which also called for the demonstration, put the number at 25,000. According to the police, around 5,000 people took part in an anti-right-wing demonstration in Saarbrücken.
On Wednesday, the media company Correctiv published research results about the meeting in a Potsdam villa. Individual AfD officials as well as individual members of the CDU and the ultra-conservative Values Union also took part in this in November. The former head of the right-wing extremist Identitarian Movement in Austria, Martin Sellner, confirmed to the German Press Agency that he had spoken about “remigration” there. When right-wing extremists use the term, they usually mean that large numbers of people of foreign origin should leave the country - even under duress. According to Correctiv research, Sellner named three target groups: asylum seekers, foreigners with the right to remain - and "non-assimilated citizens".
North Rhine-Westphalia's Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU) told the "Tagesspiegel am Sonntag" that the meeting in Potsdam with individual AfD officials showed that the second largest opposition party in the Bundestag is not a protest party. As he did a few months ago, he made it clear: "The AfD is a dangerous Nazi party."
CDU party leader Friedrich Merz said after a board meeting on Saturday in Heidelberg with a view to the upcoming elections, including in three eastern German states: "We will go into these elections with a very clear, very tough fight, especially against the AfD."
Green Party leader Omid Nouripour called for consequences: "If people meet to plan a coup or deportations of millions of people, then that should be prosecuted under criminal law," he told the "Welt," "with the full force of the law." The task of all democrats is to clearly name the AfD as an “enemy of our democracy, our economy, our society.”
After the meeting, the debate about a possible ban on the AfD flared up again. However, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is skeptical about such a request. “I cannot judge the chances of success - a procedure would probably take a very long time,” said Steinmeier to the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (Saturday). The former President of the Federal Constitutional Court, Hans-Jürgen Papier, told the “Tagesspiegel” (Saturday) about a possible ban: “That would only play into the hands of the AfD.” The Basic Law sets high hurdles for a party ban in Article 21.
FDP leader Christian Lindner argued similarly on Sunday at an FDP event in Düsseldorf: The AfD is not drawing a line of separation from right-wing extremists - but there would be no greater triumph for them than if the democratic parties knew no other way. CDU leader Merz also said he didn't think much of a ban.
The AfD is assessed as definitely right-wing extremist in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia by the respective Office for the Protection of the Constitution, and is considered a suspected case nationwide. The party has been at a poll high for months. State elections are scheduled for September in Brandenburg, Thuringia and Saxony. The AfD is currently ahead in the polls in all three countries, in some cases significantly.
In view of this, Wüst called on the federal government to cooperate in limiting migration. “The power of populists and extremists always comes from the inability of the Democrats to act. This is especially true when it comes to one of the big problems of our time: the migration issue,” Wüst told the “Tagesspiegel am Sonntag”. Wüst called for an early meeting between Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and the state prime ministers on the issue.
SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert rejected this. “I find NRW Prime Minister Wüst’s demand to be tactless, especially these days,” Kühnert told the newspaper. "Against the background of recently uncovered coup and deportation plans in circles of AfD officials, entrepreneurs and right-wing extremist activists, there is no need for concessions to the increasingly radical AfD."