Thousands of civil society activists were to march against hate and racism yesterday in Dresden, Germany, a week before state elections when the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is projected to make huge gains.
Under the banner “indivisible,” a broad coalition of artists, unionists and politicians were to gather to urge voters to reject exclusion, which they argue is championed by right-wing extremists.
Dresden is the cradle of the Islamophobic movement Pegida, and the state of Saxony is a stronghold of the anti-immigration AfD.
Organizers expected at least 10,000 people to turn up at the three-hour protest, while about 70km away, AfD coleader Alexander Gauland was to hold a rally in Chemnitz.
New polls show AfD running neck and neck with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party in Saxony.
In the state of Brandenburg, the region surrounding Berlin, some surveys even see the AfD topping the polls, which would be a major new blow for Merkel’s junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD).
If a strong showing by the AfD is confirmed in both regional polls, it could throw Merkel’s coalition into a new crisis by potentially heightening calls for the SPD to pull the plug on the partnership.
For the organizers of yesterday’s march, the regional elections, together with Oct. 27 polls in the state of Thuringia, would be the “moment of truth for democracy.”
“We want to show that there are more people on the side of solidarity than on the side of hate,” they said.
The collective of activists managed to get 250,000 people on the streets in Berlin in October last year to defend inclusion and unity.
The former communist east has been most receptive to the AfD, as part of the population feels left behind economically as villages are depleted of younger inhabitants, many of whom have headed to western Germany for better-paying jobs or opportunities.
Saxony Minister President Michael Kretschmer said that a win by the AfD could acerbate the problem by scaring off investors and foreign talent.
“We’re talking about jobs here and economic opportunities. The people should take that into account when they vote,” Kretschmer told daily newspaper Tagesspiegel.
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