In the flurry of preparing for my semester abroad in Berlin, I had very little time to study the upcoming German elections. Before I left, l was on American time, or rather, overtime. Like most students studying abroad, I was crunching in hours at work like never before. Like most people, I was just worried about my challenges, in my bubble. And like most people, the worries of world leaders escaped me, even though the implications of their work affect us all.
Once I finally made it and settled into my new space, it was time to hit the town. As we began to chat with locals, the first question we were asked was, "Where are you from?" When most find out that you're American, they cannot help but talk to you, not only about American politics but their own.
The German elections took place a week after we arrived. While Angela Merkel was re-elected as the Chancellor of Germany, people were still left worried about the far-right and some say, racist party - the Alternative for Deutschland (Germany), aka the AfD. They gained a whopping 13.3% of seats in the German Parliament. In America, a 13% increase may not mean much, but in Germany, that vote decimated some of the former party leader's coalitions in the Bundestag.
Speaking to locals, they sound afraid of what might happen with this populist party. Some AfD posters showed a pregnant white woman, with the caption that read if they need more Germans they can make them themselves. Given Germany's past, most people don't want Nationalism as a talking point. In fact, our German teacher even said most Germans don't celebrate their flag and military like Americans do. He stated that any war museums or memorials are more focused on the tragedy of war, rather than the glory.
So what does this all mean for Germany?
Well, for now, the talking heads don't believe that the AfD will affect much in the Bundestag aside from amping up the populist rhetoric. The former and more moderate co-leader of the AfD, Frauke Petry, announced shortly after the election that she would not be joining the Bundestag as a member of the AfD, but rather as an independent. So it seems as though there is already internal discord amongst party members. All of this has not only shaken the nerves of Germans and immigrants alike but also has driven concern all over Europe. Time will tell how the AfD will affect political decisions in Germany, but they are determined to be a strong opposition to Angela Merkel's party, the CDU. We should all keep an eye on the politics in one of America's closest ally countries.
Since World War II, most Germans appreciate Americans and know how important the relationship between the two countries. It is important we maintain that relationship, but with populist, nationalistic movements taking root in both countries, there is no telling what our futures hold. Germany has been the western leader in dealing with the refugee crisis, but after this election, it is possible their policies will change. Only time and vigilance will tell.
About the Author: Charise Bishop is an undergraduate student at the University of Colorado Denver studying Political Science. She will graduate in winter of 2018. Her interests in political science include international studies and human rights. Her favorite part of studying in Berlin is getting to know many different cultures and getting to know how a city this large is making such strides in sustainability. She has previously studied abroad in Guatemala, which sparked her wanderlust and made her appreciate all the opportunities available in the United States. She also loves music and long walks on the beach.