BERLIN—On first glance, the legislators occupying the 92 royal blue chairs lining the far-right side of the plenary floor in Germany’s parliament appeared no different from their 617 colleagues. Dressed in sharp suits and ties, they flipped through briefing papers on their desks, gave prepared speeches at the appropriate times, and asked polite questions of their colleagues. But then it came time to do the business of the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament. Promptly, nine of the 92 introduced legislation to strengthen border security and increase deportations for those denied asylum. Another one from their ranks tweeted an anti-Muslim message that resulted in his temporary suspension from Twitter. Yet another suggested his party would use its parliamentary power to “hunt” Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The 92 are, in fact, not like the others. They are members of the populist far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. And their mere presence in this chamber, let alone their actions, are already changing how politics works in Germany.
Since the AfD’s historic arrival into the Bundestag last fall, its members have maintained their relentless focus on immigration and refugees. They have sought to provoke their fellow members of parliament, even once taking what they described as “revenge” by invoking a procedural rule to shut down debate after one of them was rejected in a bid for a committee position. Recently, one AfD lawmaker took to Twitter to call a German tennis star’s son a “little half-Negro,” while another claimed police are pandering to “barbaric, gang-raping Muslim hordes of men” in Cologne.