BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel says that disillusionment and discontent with the German government don’t give people any “right to hatred,” an allusion to a far-right party’s strong recent election performance in eastern Germany.
Alternative for Germany, or AfD, has polled over 20% and finished second in state elections in Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia in the past two months. It is particularly strong in the ex-communist east, where many people still feel disadvantaged, 30 years after German reunification.
Asked about those election performances, Merkel acknowledged in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine published Tuesday that some people and regions in eastern Germany haven’t had it easy.
“But one must also say clearly 30 years later: Even if you are not satisfied with public transport, medical care, government action overall or your own life, that doesn’t lead to a right to hatred or disdain for other people or even violence,” she added.
Merkel, 65, herself grew up in East Germany, entering politics only in her mid-30s as communism crumbled. But disillusionment with her in recent years, fueled particularly by the influx of migrants in 2015, has perhaps been greatest in the east.
“We live in freedom — people can speak and vote accordingly,” Merkel said. She stressed that her job is to serve everyone in Germany — “so the assumption that I should take care primarily of the interests of eastern Germans is wrong but, if you follow it, it of course leads to disappointment.”
AfD has sought to claim the mantle of the 1989 rebellion against communist rule, urging eastern voters in recent election posters to “complete” that uprising.
In an apparent reference to some regional AfD leaders’ western origins, Merkel said: “What really isn’t OK from my point of view is when people with west German biographies go to the east and claim that our state actually isn’t better than East Germany.”