KARACHI: The election of the Alternative for Deutschland (AFD) to our parliament is both surprising and worrying. More importantly, though, it is an indicator of problems in German society that must be addressed at the earliest.
This point was raised by German Consul-General Rainer Schmiedchen during his address at a dinner hosted by the German Consulate on Sunday in connection with the country's federal elections.
It is perhaps more surprising that the right-wing party, AFD, went from zero representation in elections contested in the past century to entering the Bundestag, the German equivalent of the lower house of parliament, with a head-turning 12.6% of votes.
This was also one of the worst results for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, Christian Democratic Union (CDU), despite her scoring a fourth consecutive term in office.
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It is no secret that during the days leading up to the polls, the Syrian refugee influx remained the biggest election issue. Merkel, being a centrist pragmatic, had continued to insist that it ‘would not be her country’ if refugees were not let in – ‘we will cope’ being her motto. This is widely believed to be one of the main reasons for the dip in her popularity, which estimates portray as being at the lowest point since 2011.
Such was the brunt of the opposition Merkel eventually had to yield to and toughen her party's stance on the migrant and refugee issue.
"The average German is disappointed with the results, but despite these events and the consequent undercurrents in German society we do not expect any general change in policy," the consul general informed the gathering comprised of journalists, teachers and German dignitaries.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Schmeidchen reiterated that despite the startling result, Merkel is still the four-time elected chancellor of Germany. Her policies and worldview, appreciated globally, are not expected to change, he said.
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When inquired about United States President Donald Trump's latest speech at the United Nations and the rebuttal from German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, the consul general lauded his compatriot.
"He is an experienced politician and a great statesman. There's a reason he is there and the consul general is happy to be here," he quipped. He went on to say that he was genuinely happy to be in Pakistan and said the people were warm and welcoming.
Speaking about Pakistan on a lighter tone, he said, "We are a bit envious that most of your students apply to other countries". He added more seriously "our education system is at par internationally and we hope to see more Pakistani students benefit from it".