The Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) on Saturday launched a vehement attack against the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), laying the foundation for what could be a heated and ill-tempered state election in the southern German state later this year.
Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder was quoted as telling ministers during a closed-door meeting that the AfD was "un-Bavarian" and "had absolutely nothing to do with Bavaria."
Those remarks were escalated by CSU General Secretary Markus Blume in an election strategy paper, who described the anti-immigrant AfD as an "enemy against everything Bavaria stands for." He went on to imply that the AfD was effectively a fascist party, saying "brown dirt has no place here." In Germany the colour brown is strongly associated with Nazi groups, referring to their uniforms.
Saturday's meeting marked the first preparations ahead of October's Bavarian state elections. The CSU is hoping to maintain its absolute majority in the state parliament. However, recent polls suggest this may be hard to come by. Latest figures suggest the CSU will take around 41 percent of the vote — almost 7 percentage points less than in the previous election.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian sister-party has also been licking its wounds in the aftermath of last year's federal election, which saw it take just 38.8 percent of the vote in its home state, a 10-point drop from the last election in 2013.
Reclaiming lost AfD voters
The AfD, currently polling at 12 percent in Bavaria, could prove to be one of CSU's main rivals come October.
Most of the CSU's lost voters in September's general election migrated to the AfD. The Bavarian party has been vying to win them back since with a marked political shift to the right, particularly on refugees and migration policies.
Senior ministers including Söder and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer remained hopeful on Saturday that they would reclaim lost voters. "Our voter base is much wider; it's the middle class and that's who we will be canvassing," Söder told ministers.
Referring to the AfD, Seehofer said: "In the areas where they advocate absurd policies — and there are plenty of them — we will absolutely take them to task. But otherwise we will stand for our policies and for the middle class."
AfD jumps on the defensive
The AfD's co-chair Jörg Meuthen was quick to defend the party once the CSU ministers' remarks were made public.
"The AfD is clearly conservative, bourgeois-free and patriotic," Meuthen told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper. "Despair in the CSU must be running high if that's what they call un-Bavarian."
The far-right leader also accused the CSU of suffering "a steep loss of prestige" by dabbling in "Antifa jargon," referring to far-left, anti-fascist and often violent movement.
dm/aw (dpa, AFP)