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Over 10,000 farmers and their tractors blocked traffic in Germany’s capital and main highways on Monday to protest government plans to raise taxes – amid political debates on the rise of the far-right, CNN reported.
The rally was the climax of a week of demonstrations that saw 500 tractors lined up in front of Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate, once the stage for German reunification in 1989.
The farmers jeered as Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner said more subsidies were out of the question.
Germany’s economy shrank last year for the first time since the pandemic and was the worst-performing in the developed world, the Associated Press reported. The government has been facing a budget crisis since a constitutional court ruling in November last year ordered it to redo its budgets. One solution has been to remove tax breaks on agricultural diesel.
The move triggered farmers’ anger, which to date has forced the government to make some concessions, but not enough for them to withdraw completely.
The so-called “traffic light” coalition government – made of the “red” Social Democrats, the “yellow” Liberals, and the Greens – has been divided on the issue. Meanwhile, the opposition Christian Democrats and far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) have expressed their support for the protesters.
Some tractors displayed posters featuring the AfD’s logo and calling for new elections.
The disruptions caused by the farmers’ protests and rail strikes last week have benefited the AfD in recent elections. The far-right faction reached second place in a country that has long strived to steer away from far-right ideology due to its National Socialist legacy and World War II.
Meanwhile, thousands gathered at the Brandenburg Gate and in the nearby city of Potsdam on Sunday to protest the AfD after a report that members of the party attended a meeting in November to discuss the so-called “remigration” of millions of people – Germans and foreigners alike – with an immigrant background, the Associated Press reported.
The term “Remigration” was named “non-word of the year” by a group of German linguists, who described it as a euphemism for far-right white supremacist policies. The outrage surrounding the meeting led some to demand a ban on the AfD, though others argued such a move would only strengthen the party, allowing it to play victim.
Germany this year faces the European Parliament elections, as well as three state legislative votes.