BERLIN – A former Cabinet minister and member of Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc blamed Germany’s chancellor for steering a course that has strengthened the euroskeptic AfD party and a new anti-immigrant grass-roots movement.
In rare direct criticism of Merkel, Hans-Peter Friedrich, who was forced to resign as agriculture minister in February over leaked information, said Sunday that Merkel made a “disastrous mistake” by wooing center-left voters and ignoring those on the right.
Friedrich said voters who had joined the AfD, which has won seats in three state assemblies in Germany after shifting its focus from eurskepticism to concerns about immigration in the last year, had felt abandoned by the conservative bloc.
“If you had asked me a couple of years ago, I would have said we will clear them out by taking away their issues. But Mrs. Merkel has decided instead to take away issues from the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens,” Friedrich told Der Spiegel.
“This is successful in the short term, as the polls show, but in the long run it is a disastrous mistake which can lead to the division and weakening of the conservative camp,” he said.
Merkel’s deal last year to share power with the center-left SPD worried some on the right of her party who feared she would move too far left, and Friedrich pointed to SPD initiated policies such as the introduction of a minimum wage.