Germany’s seat of education and cultural capital Saxony is also dubbed the Jewel of Europe for its heritage and unlimited natural beauty.
In 1989 the Saxons were also the first East Germans to get onto the streets demanding unification with West Germany. Their campaign spread across the country and they tasted success with the fall of the Berlin wall. As such it is often said that no one knows the power of street protests in Germany better than the Saxons.
Ever since the unification, Saxony was touted as Germany’s success story to be. With an educated and sophisticated population there were signs everywhere of a smooth road towards self-sufficiency and stability for this State.
However, today Saxony is also synonymous with something that is not so welcome by a majority in West Germany. At last month’s elections it made the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) the single largest party in the State by pushing Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to second place. It was the only German State to do so.
However, the signs that Saxony was not happy with Merkel’s rule have been there for some time. In 2014 it gave birth to the anti-Islam PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident). PEGIDA is of the view that Germany is being gradually Islamized due to the migration policy of the CDU leaders. The movement today has branch organizations in several countries. In January last year PEGIDA and its European allies met in the Czech Republic and signed what it called Prague Declaration, which claims that “the history of Western civilization could soon come to an end through Islam conquering Europe.”
Regular clashes with refugees, attacks on refugee shelters and anti-immigrant demonstrations are today having a toll on Saxony’s economy as the number of tourists continues to dwindle. It has prompted the federal government to conduct public relations programmes between the natives and the refugees.
Meanwhile international scholars who used to frequent Saxony’s much revered universities to help in research are reportedly now having second thoughts on visiting them due to the growing xenophobic attitude of the locals.
Analysts attribute the anti-immigrant attitude of former Eastern states to the lapses in the unification programme of Helmut Kohl. They are of the opinion that the failure of the plan to have proper integration programmes for the Easterners has resulted in them continuing to be xenophobic. They remain totally unprepared for a multi-cultural society, the analysts claim.
However people in this former East German State are not the only people to welcome AfD. In the former West German State of Bavaria, AfD polled almost 20% of the total votes thus giving shivers to the State’s largest party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). The CSU which is a sister party of Merkel’s CDU got 38.8% of the votes this time, ten points down from its last election results and the drop is attributed to the progress of AfD.
With 12.6% of the national vote, AfD is today the third largest party in the federal parliament with 94 seats and one of its three key demands is to indict Angela Merkel for opening German borders to refugees in 2015. A referendum to decide whether Germany should remain in the EU and a ban on burqas and minarets, are the other demands of the party.
The fact that big numbers for AfD came from the former Eastern German states like Saxony has disturbed the peace of mind of Merkel and her allies. What is more worrisome however is a trend among the far Easterners for being vocal about their preference to a hard-nosed leader like Vladimir Putin to liberal Merkel.
“It was Putin who finally saved Europe from ISIS. The liberals cannot assure our security,” has become a common slogan among the easterners, especially those who live closer to the Czech and Polish borders.
Though it’s too premature to predict the future of AfD, especially after the exit of its former leader immediately after election results, one cannot help but wonder whether people in Saxony, who brought down the Berlin wall, will be the ones to rebuild it as well.