Government may typically move slowly, but when it works in its favor, Germany’s coalition is quick to legislative action — especially if it hurts opponents on the far right.
Early this month, conservative Christian Democrats and the Christian Social Union set out with their center-left coalition partners, the Social Democrats, to revamp party financing laws. They sought in part to increase state aid for political parties. But they also took aim at the controversial financing tactics of the right-wing populist party, the Alternative for Germany, or AfD.
As the refugee crisis in Germany continues to divide politicians and the populace, many are concerned about the growing popularity of the right-wing party. Germany has accepted one million refugees this year fleeing war and poverty but Chancellor Angela Merkel’s insistence on an open-door policy of welcome has polarized opinion.
Over the course of the year, support for the right-wing group, with its fierce opposition to refugees and euro-zone bailouts, has grown to 9 percent.
This week the committee on internal affairs held a hearing on the proposed changes to the way parties are financed in Germany. By Thursday, the changes were scheduled to be ratified by the Bundestag, Germany’s lower legislative chamber, and take effect next month.
In Germany, political parties can get up to €2 million a year in state aid, or about $2.2 million. But first they must raise the same amount in revenues, usually in donations from supporters.
Political funding is an especially big issue in Germany, owing to its experience with the rise of National Socialism in the 1930s. Today it has broader political finance legislation than many other democracies.