Following Donald Trump‘s shock victory, mainstream politicians in Europe have been warned not to underestimate the threat from populist candidates.
Trump’s win has shaken many European lawmakers ahead of elections next year, including in France and Germany, where right-wing parties are expected to notch up big gains.
‘Demagogic populism is not only a problem in America,’ German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Bild daily. ‘Elsewhere in the West, too, the political debate is in an alarming state.’
Chancellor Angela Merkel is widely expected to stand for a fourth term in German elections in September, and although her conservatives are roughly 10 points ahead of their nearest rivals, her open-door migrant policy has angered many voters.
The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has embraced tough anti-immigrant rhetoric, is swaying supporters from the bigger parties.
Founded less than four years ago, it now has seats in more than half of Germany’s state assemblies.
Schaeuble said politicians had to respond by being more inclusive. His words were echoed by another senior conservative, Hans-Peter Friedrich, who feared a Trump effect in Germany.
Voters feel they have no control over things, from European Central Bank policy to immigration, he said.
‘If there are no answers provided by the main parties in our country, they will turn to populists,’ Friedrich told Bild.
EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, also a senior conservative, said the U.S. election was a warning for Germany.
‘Things are getting simplified, black or white, good or bad, right or wrong. You can ask simple questions, but one should not give simple answers,’ Oettinger told Deutschlandfunk radio.
Businesss leaders have also pointed to risks for companies working in Europe’s biggest economy.
Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser told reporters:’The rapid rise of political and social populism and accelerating global migration are causes of concern.
‘As a result, uncertainty continues to dominate our lives,’ he told reporters.
Stability is crucial for the factory equipment maker which needs firms to commit to substantial capital investments.
The AfD, polling at around 13 percent, has seized on Trump’s victory, saying his message resonates in Germany.
‘The issues that moved the detached middle class in America to vote for Trump are issues we face in Europe,’ AfD chief Frauke Petry told MDR radio, pointing to tax and migration.
However, a Politbarometer poll for broadcaster ZDF showed 82 percent of Germans view Trump’s win as bad or very bad.
Experts also argue that Germany’s political system was designed after World War Two specifically to avoid the rise of a dictator after Hitler, and that social divisions are narrower than in the U.S.
The poll also showed that 65 percent of Germans expect relations with the U.S. to deteriorate under Trump.
After World War Two, the United States was one of the closest allies of West Germany – then the front line in the Cold War. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, ties have remained close but a scandal about NSA mass surveillance in Germany has chilled relations.
Merkel has offered to work closely with Trump only on the basis that shared values, such as democracy, freedom, respect for the rule of law and people’s race, religion and gender are respected.
Source: The Daily Mail