With Angela Merkel’s resignation and the uncertainty surrounding her party’s (the Christian Democratic Union) future, there is room for a considerable shake-up in German politics. Enter Tareq Alaows, the first Syrian refugee running to enter the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, as a Die Grünen (Green Party) candidate.
After fleeing Syria’s civil war in 2017 following taking part in peaceful demonstrations and volunteering for the Red Cresent, Alaows began his two-month journey to Germany. His arrival would result in his immediate immersion in his fight to better people’s lives in the state. He quickly learned German and co-founded an advocacy initiative for migrant rights.
Political Life in Germany
After organizing Adhoc protests for the refugee center he was in, Alaows created a lasting and visible peaceful protest organization to advocate for migrants on a larger scale. “Seebrücke,” otherwise known as Sea-Bridge Alliance, is the name of this organization which advocated for migrants primarily regarding increased participation and improved housing. This social cause is what drove Tareq Alaows to pursue his bid for a seat in the Bundestag.
Having recently applied for citizenship, Alaows launched his candidacy for the Green Party earlier this month to represent Oberhausse, a region in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
“In Germany, NRW is my home. Right here in my constituency in Oberhausen and Dinslaken was the beginning of my political work,” said Alaows in the campaign video he uploaded to his Twitter profile. If he is successful in his bid for office, he said he hopes “to be the voice of all refugees.”
Alaows seeks to take on an ecosocialist role within the party, focusing on the link between climate change and migration policies, a prevalent topic in public and governmental narratives. In a tweet he shared on February 19th, he notes the “diversity statue” as one of his main reasons for joining the Greens. Furthermore, he highlights the safe havens many municipalities have become for migrants, thanks in part to Green caucuses.
“The climate crisis will further aggravate the situation of people in the global south. This is why a fair climate policy must focus on refugees and migration,” is the message he presents in his Twitter campaign video. Intersectional collaboration to advance migrant and environmental advocates is for the Green Party’s agenda and Germany’s general population.
Divide Surrounding Migration
Tensions are rising surrounding migration issues, with the people of Germany are calling for the rejection of the “Fortress of Europe” mentality. Germany’s government policies have not reflected this, with German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer taking a firm stance on migration and threatening to unilaterally tighten Germany’s borders.
A man participating in the protests mentioned above holds a sign reading “Seebrücke instead of Seehofer” — referring to the German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s dug-in stance on on unilaterally tightening Germany’s borders. A power struggle between Seehofer and Merkel earlier this year threatened to topple to government, evidencing the cracks in German parliament and the need for a balancing force.
There is a further strain upon Germany’s political balance, with the right-winged populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) negatively responding to his candidacy. Alaows fired back, asking, “How afraid are these people of democracy,” in an entrevista with Bericht aus Berlin.
Alaows has campaigned on and taken this uneasiness in stride, rather than being intimidated, which is precisely what Germany needs. In his campaign video, he states, “As the first Syrian refugee in the Bundestag, I want to give a political voice to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been forced to flee and live with us.”
By taking a strong stance on the politically divisive issues of migration and the environment, he puts himself into a cornering, decided voter demographic. However, the demand for a voice to stand up against the right-wing is present.
Deteriorating Political Imbalance
The state’s traditional two-party system is traditionally made up of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) that Angela Merkel leaves behind and the Social Democratic Party (SDP). However, political restlessness has resulted in The AfD is gaining significant traction and presenting a challenge for the political norms.
The rising popularity of smaller parties comes at a critical moment in the CDU. They held a leadership election on January 15-16, 2021, with the results being within a five percent spread. This marginal win by Armin Laschet (52.7%) highlights the divide within the party.
The incumbent CDU divide opens the door for the Green Party to gain traction among divided voters. Still, it does the same for the AfD and the center-right Social Democrats (SPD).
However, according to Político, the Green Party sits at 19% of the national voting intention, behind only the CDU.
While the CDU’s support grew with the impact of the pandemic, the Green (Die Grünen) Party has the potential and ability to replace the SDP in Germany’s Bundestag.
Germany’s two-party system is becoming increasingly weak. The left-leaning Green parties and the right AfD both seek to challenge the traditional establishment.
Alaows has publicly stated that he will not be intimidated by the hate campaigns by the far-right. He may be what is needed to keep the increasingly divided German government balanced and progressive. By prioritizing giving a voice to migrants, he also promotes the perspective that everyone deserves a parliament voice.
If Germany wants to remain a global powerhouse and progressive nation, more people like Tareq Alaows need to enter government office to provide an all-encompassing and balanced Germany.