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Racism, protest vote fueled German right, says expert

RACISM, PROTEST VOTE FUELED GERMAN RIGHT, SAYS EXPERT

Right-wing extremism expert Hajo Funke told Turkey's state-run news agency that the AfD's success did not come as a surprise, and underlining that 60 percent of elector who voted for the AfD, did so due to their frustration, due to protest, and also adding that 40 percent voted for the AfD due to its far-right, partly racist views

The surge seen by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in last Sunday's election was mostly a protest vote but many party supporters hold racist views, right-wing extremism expert Hajo Funke has told Anadolu Agency.

Funke, a professor emeritus at the Free University of Berlin, said the AfD's success did not come as a surprise but the party gained more votes than expected amid widespread concerns among German citizens about the refugee crisis.

"According to a recent survey, 60 percent of those who voted for the AfD, did so due to their frustration, due to protest. But 40 percent voted for the AfD due to its far-right, partly racist views," he said in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency.

The AfD has become the third-biggest party in the German parliament after winning 12.6 percent of the vote in Sunday's election, gaining 94 out of 709 seats and breaking through a five-percent electoral threshold.

It attacked Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy for refugees during its election campaign and argued the country was under the threat of "Islamization" especially after nearly one million refugees, mostly from Syria and Iraq, arrived since 2015.

Funke said the AfD managed to bring together different groups from the right-wing scene, ranging from those who were concerned over uncontrolled migration or the influence of Islam to those who openly advocated racist and xenophobic views, even making references to Nazi ideology.

'EVERYDAY RACISM'
He underlined that while the party's official program was not openly racist, the anti-immigration, anti-Islam rhetoric of the party's leading figures was nourishing "everyday racism".

"We are witnessing an increase in everyday racism in Germany. With the AfD and the movements like PEGIDA, which are closely related, everyday racism and violence are becoming more serious issues," Funke warned.

"Violence is, of course, not the strategy of the AfD but they are, in a way, approving it. Therefore, they are also responsible for the racist violence," he added.

Far-right crimes in Germany reached a record high of 23,555 cases in 2016, which included six cases of attempted homicide, 78 serious offences involving bodily injury, 74 cases of arson attacks and five offences involving explosives.

Funke underlined that despite widespread concerns over the surge of the AfD, German democracy was mature enough to confront this far-right challenge.

"Eighty-seven percent of the representatives elected to the German parliament are strongly committed to democracy. They know that this is a special moment at the Bundestag," he said.

"They already made it clear that there will be no coalition government with the AfD, there will be no cooperation with them," he added.

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