SPD and AfD Leaders Trade Accusations After European Election Loss

The co-leader of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD has criticized the rival AfD after the SPD experienced a setback in the European Parliament election.

Lars Klingbeil, co-leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), has accused members of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) of being “Nazis” following the SPD’s unexpected loss in the European parliamentary elections.

The SPD is projected to have garnered approximately 14% of the vote for the EU legislature, after four days of voting concluded on Sunday. This places them third behind the AfD, which is estimated to have secured 16%, and the Christian Democrats, projected to have won 30%.

During a panel discussion on the n-tv broadcaster on Sunday evening, Klingbeil expressed his expectation of better results in the federal parliamentary election next year. “I believe that the result of the European election will make many people realize that the Nazis have become more powerful,” he stated. He predicted that voters will “fight for democracy” as a consequence.

Alice Weidel, co-chair of the AfD, asked Klingbeil to clarify who he specifically labeled as “Nazis.” In response, he stated: “You know that I mean: the AfD and you.”

Klingbeil reiterated his statement after Weidel inquired, “Did you just call me and the party Nazis?” prompting Weidel to respond, “OK. Interesting.”

Sahra Wagenknecht, leader of the new left-wing BSW party, intervened by advocating for a more nuanced approach to dealing with the AfD, while acknowledging that some individuals within the party’s ranks fit the “Nazi” description.

Wagenknecht cited Bjorn Hocke, the AfD leader in Thuringia, who was charged last year with publicly using a banned slogan originally adopted by the Nazi paramilitary wing, the Sturmabteilung, in the 1930s.

Wagenknecht also asserted that MEP Maximilian Krah would fit the “Nazi” label after he stated in an interview last month that not all members of the Waffen-SS should be considered criminals. This remark created a rift between the AfD and its allies in the European Parliament. Krah resigned from the party leadership team and suspended campaigning to alleviate the tensions.

Traditional German political forces have accused the right-wing AfD of Nazi leanings for years. In 2022, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, labeled the party a suspected extremist organization requiring monitoring. Last month, the administrative court in Muenster ruled that legal grounds existed for such a designation, but emphasized that it did not consider the suspicion proven.

Wagenknecht’s BSW party obtained around 6% of the vote in its first European Parliament election. The SPD’s allies in the “traffic light” coalition, the Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens, experienced losses, with the Greens falling to 12%, down from 20.5% in the previous election in 2019.