First Sitting of Germany's Newly-Elected Parliament

EU | October 24, 2017, Tuesday // 08:35|  views

Dozens of lawmakers from the far-right AfD party make their debut on Tuesday, October 24, at the first sitting of Germany's newly-elected parliament, an unprecedented showing for a nationalist force since World War II.

A record 709 MPs will gather for the session, with all eyes on the 92 members from Alternative for Germany (AfD), which took 12.6% of the vote in September's watershed elections and became the country's third biggest party.

The AfD's arrival in the Bundestag unleashed a political earthquake in post-war Germany, as leading figures in the party have repeatedly smashed taboos through their claims on German identity or by challenging Germany's culture of atonement over World War II and the Holocaust.

Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the AfD's presence in parliament gave him a "queasy feeling".

"It's a depressing and unsettling feeling to know that there are now people sitting in the Bundestag who appear to want to hide the Nazi past and to target Muslims and asylum seekers," he told the Juedische Allgemeine, a Jewish publication.

Two days ahead of the session, thousands of people holding up "Stop AfD" signs demonstrated outside the parliament building in Berlin.

Although Tuesday will be a housekeeping session rather than a policy-making one, it is already shaping up to be contentious as the Islamophobic and anti-immigration AfD seeks to makes its presence felt.

As polls in the run-up to the September 24 vote predicted that the AfD would win seats, Germany's mainstream parties tweaked parliamentary rules to block the AfD from getting the symbolic post of interim speaker.

Rather than conferring the role of interim speaker on the oldest MP, it now goes to the lawmaker with the longest political experience – in this case, outgoing Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

The veteran minister known for his caustic wit is expected to be formally elected as speaker for the term.

Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly asked Schaeuble to take the post to rein in the AfD in parliament.

But while the AfD has been thwarted from securing the symbolic interim post, another battle is brewing on Tuesday as MPs elect vice-chairs at the Bundestag.

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Tags: AfD party, Bundestag, Germany


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