February 5, 2016

Frauke Petry, chairwoman of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party opined last week that due to the continued influx of immigrants police ought to use firearms in order to defend the German border. In an interview with the local newspaper Mannheimer Morgen, Petry asserted that “[n]o policeman wants to shoot at a refugee. I don’t want to either. But part of an ultima ratio is the use of armed force.” The party’s vice-chairwoman Beatrix von Storch reaffirmed this statement in a somewhat more blunt fashion on her Facebook page: “Whoever does not accept the STOP [sign] at our borders is an attacker. And we need to defend ourselves against attacks”. Questioned by a commenter whether she would use weapons to prevent women and children from crossing the border, von Storch only replied with a curt “yes”.

After the leading AfD women boldly asserted that their suggestions were covered by existing law, they subsequently issues retractions of their statements in the face of massive public backlash. Yet while criticism of Petry’s and von Storch’s statements was fierce, arguably it did little to harm the AfD’s current political momentum. As communication scientist Frank Brettschneider contended in an interview with the news outlet Tagesschau, the AfD draws its strength from obtaining media attention through conscious provocation. Brettschneider drew an explicit parallel to Donald Trump: outrageous statements lead to condemnation on the part of the societal mainstream, yet they buttress popularity in that sector of the population that is attracted to this discourse.

So far, the AfD’s calculation appears to be working: Following Petry’s and von Storch’s statements, the AfD reached a new high of 12 per cent in the national polls. At the centre of attention are the three states of Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Saxony-Anhalt where new state parliaments and prime ministers will be elected in mid-March. Here, attempts to exclude the AfD from the televised debates ahead of the elections have led to the cancellation of these debates and seemingly only strengthened the AfD’s position.


Frauke Petry’s original statement: http://www.morgenweb.de/sie-konnen-es-nicht-lassen-1.2620328 (in German)

Beatrix von Storch’s comments: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/fluechtlingskrise/beatrix-von-storch-afd-vizechefin-will-polizei-sogar-auf-kinder-schiessen-lassen-14044186.html (in German)

Interview with Frank Brettschneider: http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/interview-brettschneider-afd-101.html (in German)

AfD at a new all-time high in national polls: http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/deutschlandtrend/index.html (in German)

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