As millions of European voters go to the polls in 2017, Brookings experts explain the domestic political and economic dynamics surrounding pivotal elections in several countries, as well as the ramifications for the EU, transatlantic ties, and the Western-led global order.
All Western democracies, including the U.S. and Germany, are seeing powerful protest movements against globalization and integration. They are agitating for a recapturing of control, or 'sovereignty,' and often also of ethnic homogeneity. Although they keep talking about the nation-state, they oppose key principles of Western constitutionalism like separation of powers and the protection of minorities against the tyranny of the majority. They want a tribalization of politics. That's something the Tea Party and the U.S. alt-right have in common with the AfD.
Germany's postwar foreign policy had two lodestars: atonement for World War II and the Holocaust, as well as reconciliation with its victims and enemies — and joining the universe of Western democracies, and specifically integration into the U.N., NATO, and the European Union. The AfD [Alternative for Germany] more or less explicitly rejects both these orienting principles in favor of an ethno-nationalist, sovereignist, anti-European, anti-American and pro-Russian stance.
There is a general German preference for political stability. That is reinforced by the creeping instability of Germany’s situation in the middle of Europe, the crisis in the Middle East and Africa, Russian aggression, a trans-Atlantic relationship that is suddenly fraught, and Eastern European neighbors who are flirting with authoritarianism.