Feb 152017
 

Seven months before the election, what’s up with the Alternative für Deutschland?

I’ve kept repeating this since the Alternative für Deutschland’s ascendancy in the polls began in late 2015: the AfD’s electoral popularity depends on a) steering away from open right-wing extremism, which has frustrated previous attempts to establish a right-wing populist party in Germany, and b) presenting a united front. With the beginning of the (long) campaign, the party is not doing too well on both counts. Let’s have a look at seven of my favourite conflicts within the party.

Putsch in the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)?

The AfD and Bruce Springsteen. You would have to ask @BDStanley what it means.

#1 Right-wing extremism in Saarland – not a problem, really

The Saarland (always with the article) is a small state in the West with an interesting history and a relatively lively right-wing scene. The AfD state party is so closely involved with said right-wing extremists that the Alternative’s national executive – not normally given to anti-fascist activism – voted to disband the state party back in March 2016. However, the national executive lost a legal battle with the state party leadership, and the state party could continue. The executive then asked the state party not to field any candidates in the upcoming 2017 federal election. The state party politely declined this request. Incidentally, the state party’s number three was caught on camera selling Nazi devotionalia in his shop.

#2 Anti-Semitism in Baden-Württemberg

Shortly after the March 2016 state election in Baden-Württemberg, it emerged that Wolfgang Gedeon, one of the freshly minted MPs for the Alternative für Deutschland is an anti-Semite and conspiracy theorist. Jörg Meuthen – party leader in Baden-Württemberg, head of the parliamentary party in the Baden-Württemberg state parliament and one of the party’s two national “speakers” – , who is usually typecast as one of the remaining economic liberal/socially conservative characters in the AfD, unsuccessfully tried to expel Gedeon from the parliamentary party. As a result, the parliamentary party split in two in July. Legal and political chaos ensued. Meuthen’s co-leader Frauke Petry arrived on the scene, allegedly trying to make peace, but most observers agreed that this intervention was part of the ongoing power struggle between Petry and Meuthen. Finally, after three months of strife, the two factions re-united under Meuthen’s leadership.

#3 Candidate selection in NRW

With roughly the same population as the Netherlands, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is the most populous federal state in Germany. In German Politics, NRW and its politicians are heavy-weights. The state will go to the polls in May 2017, and the result will be read as a bellwether for the federal election September. The AfD state party is lead by Marcus Pretzell, one of the two remaining MEPs for the AfD. Pretzell is controversial within “his” party. In November, he and his inner circle were accused of using undue methods to orchestrate the selection of candidates for the upcoming state election. In January, the state’s returning officer decided that although there had been irregularities, the process was deemed legal so that he would provisionally accept the list of candidates. The final decision will be made in May. While it looks unlikely at the moment, in theory the party could be barred from taking part in the election.

#4 Litigation in Schleswig-Holstein

The northern state of Schleswig-Holstein is also going to the polls in May. Thomas Tomsen, the former (until May 2016) leader of the state party has tried to sue his successor, Jörg Nobis. Tomsen claims that scores of his supporters were not invited to the assembly that elected Nobis. In January, Tomsen lost a court case on formal grounds: The judges ruled that Tomsen has to go through the internal system of party courts before he can appeal to a regular, public court. And so the former and the present leader will spend at least a part of the election campaign in court(s). The lawyer for the current leadership has defended NPD politicians in the past and is himself a well-known right-winger.

#5 Factions. More factions

In the past, the “Patriotic Platform” has brought together the right-wingers amongst the right-wingers in the AfD. But apparently, the PP has become too pussy-footed by the standards of some of their leading lights. The blick nach rechts blog reports that some former members of the PP’s federal executive are setting up the “Free Patriotic Alternative”. Judean People’s Front vs People’s Front of Judea, anyone?

#6 Höcke

Speaking of the Patriotic Platform and right-wingers, Björn Höcke, the leader of the state party in Thuringia, is the most visible amongst the ultra-right within the party. In his speeches/performances, he borrows heavily from the ideas, vocabulary, and style of the Weimar Republic’s anti-democratic right. In the past, he came under fire when he claimed that “not each and every member of the [right-wing extremist] NPD was an extremist”. Then-party leader Bernd Lucke tried to expel Höcke, but failed. Colleague Andreas Kemper has made it his life’s ambition to demonstrate that Höcke has published racist dribble in an NPD party paper pseudonymously. He is probably right. Höcke also made waves (and came close to being kicked out of the party once more) when he gave speech at an extremist think tank where he referred to Africans as a “different species” which pursues “an expansive pro-creational strategy”.

His latest exploit was a speech in which he said that the Holocaust memorial in Berlin was shameful, and that Germany’s approach to its past was seriously misguided and hence required a complete turnaround. The speech was given on the 75th anniversary of the infamous “Wannsee Conference”, where the organisational groundwork for the Holocaust was laid. The national executive made a move to expel Höcke in January but in the end left it at a formal censure. Last Monday, after much toing and froing behind the scenes, a large majority voted to start a protracted process that could possibly, but not necessarily, end with Höcke’s departure from the party.

#7 The nationalist international

Pretzell is a member of the ENF group in the European Parliament. Although the AfD’s official policy is to keep their distance from other right-wing populist parties in Europe, Pretzell organised a (highly publicised) ENF meeting in the German city of Koblenz on January 21. Amongst the attendees were Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Matteo Salvini and (drumroll) Frauke Petry, who had not sought a consensus with other members of the executive. At least the German public perceived the conference as an AfD event. There were not too many happy faces seen on the executive board.

It’s not (just) about extremism. It is (also) about The Leader and her Lover vs The Rest

As a relatively young party, the AfD has many leaders and leaderlings, and since Lucke’s departure the public tends to perceive the party through the lenses of their respective personas (how is that for a mixed and convoluted metaphor?). Much of the ongoing conflict within the AfD is about ideology, or rather about the party’s general public image as “conservative-liberal”, “national-consersavtive”, right-wing populist or even right-wing extremist. But personalities, personal ambitions, and personal animosities are at least as important.

Petry was perceived as more radical than Lucke, yet representing something like a centrist position within the Lucke-less AfD. However, one important reason for ascendancy was that she seemed more willing to accept a modicum of collective leadership than Lucke – a perception that has now faded. Petry frequently tries to bypass the party structures. The party base, in turn, has denied her her wish to become the party’s sole “Spitzenkandidat” for the federal election.

Petry’s key ally is Pretzell, whom she married in December. Both are on record saying that refugees could be shot at the German border, which is not exactly the hallmark of a moderate. Pretzell was quick to blame the Berlin terror attack on refugees and Merkel, and Petry suggested that the word “völkisch” – the traditional self-description of German nationalists – should be seen as a positive term “again”. The last time this word had a positive connotation was during the Nazi era. Meuthen, who likes to give the impression that he is more liberal than Petry, failed to vet Gedeon before he was selected as a candidate. Meuthen also suggested that AfD MPs should not automatically vote against any proposal drafted by NPD in state parliaments, and voted against the motion to expel Höcke, whom he has supported on other occasions, too.

Four years after its inception, the AfD is still a very mixed bag of right-wingers, warring amongst each other for all sorts of reasons. And while I’m writing this, Der Tagesspiegel reports that not just his own people but also Alexander Gauland (another party heavy-weight and member of the national executive) and unspecified “supporters” are “urging” Höcke, the man under the gun, to run in the Bundestag election to challenge Petry. Höcke has previously ruled out any ambitions to leave Thuringia, but might now be tempted to stage a coup. I long to see how the politicking in the AfD will play out over the next seven months.

Feb 102017
 
Jan 312017
 

After three years or so, there is a publication date for our Handbook of Electoral Behaviour: it will be out in mid-March (2017) and could be yours for a mere 240 quid (hey, that’s a ten per cent pre-publication discount!). Delectable as it is, it is somewhat unlikely that you would want to buy this tome for your private collection, but you might want to recommend it to your library. Speaking of delectable things, here is what is in the box:

Introduction (Kai Arzheimer, Jocelyn Evans and Michael S. Lewis-Beck)

PART I  INSTITUTIONAL APPROACHES

Institutions and Voter Choice: Who Chooses, What Do They Choose Over, and How Do They Choose (Shaun Bowler)

Party Systems and Voter Alignments (Åsa von Schoultz (née Bengtsson))

The Study of Less Important Elections (Hermann Schmitt and Eftichia Teperoglou)

Clarity of Responsibility and Vote Choice (Thiago Silva and Guy D. Whitten)

Voting in New(er) Democracies (Lenka Bustikova and Elizabeth Zechmeister)

PART II  SOCIOLOGICAL APPROACHES

Age and Voting (Ruth Dassonneville)

Gender and Voting (Rosie Campbell)

Social Class and Voting (Geoffrey Evans)

Religion (Martin Elff and Sigrid Roßteutscher)

Race, Ethnicity and Elections: From Recognizable Patterns to Generalized Theories (Maria Sobolewska)

Social Networks and Voter Mobilization (Marc Hooghe)

PART III  PARTISANSHIP

The Evolving Role of Partisanship (Elias Dinas)

Party Identification: Meaning and Measurement (Donald P. Green and Susanne Baltes)

Cognitive Mobilization (Todd Donovan)

PART IV  VOTER DECISION-MAKING

Strategic Voting (Thomas Gschwend and Michael F. Meffert)

Integrating Genetics into the Study of Electoral Behavior (Carisa L. Bergner and Peter K. Hatemi)

Emotions and Voting (David P. Redlawsk and Douglas R. Pierce)

Referendums (Alan Renwick)

Turnout (Hanna Wass and André Blais)

PART V  ISSUES AND ATTITUDES

Ideology and Core Values (Robert N. Lupton, Adam M. Enders, and William G. Jacoby)

Issue Ownership: An Ambiguous Concept (Wouter van der Brug)

Valence (Jane Green and Will Jennings)

Value Cleavages (Romain Lachat)

The Economic Vote: Ordinary vs.Extraordinary Times (Michael S. Lewis-Beck and Marina Costa Lobo)

The VP-Function: A Review (Mary Stegmaier, Michael S. Lewis-Beck and Beomseob Park)

PART VI  CANDIDATES AND CAMPAIGNS

Voter Evaluation of Candidates and Party Leaders (Diego Garzia)

Candidate Location and Vote Choice (Jocelyn Evans)

The Personal Vote (Thomas Zittel)

Candidate Attractiveness (Markus Klein and Ulrich Rosar)

Campaign Effects (Richard Johnston)

Economic Voting in a New Media Environment:Preliminary Evidence and Implications (Diana C. Mutz and Eunji Kim)

Campaign Spending (Zachary Albert and Raymond La Raja)

PART VII  POLLING AND FORECASTING

Polls and Votes (Robert Ford, Christopher Wlezien, Mark Pickup and Will Jennings)

Econometric Approaches to Forecasting (Éric Bélanger and David Trotter)

Wisdom of Crowds (Andreas Murr)

Political Markets (Andreas Graefe)

Social Media and Elections: A Meta-analysis of Online-based Electoral Forecasts (Andrea Ceron, Luigi Curini and Stefano M. Iacus)

PART VIII  Candidates and Campaigns

Experiments (Robert Johns)

Multi-level Modelling of Voting Behaviour (Marcel Lubbers and Take Sipma)

Cross-national Data Sources: Opportunities and Challenges (Catherine de Vries)

Psephology and Technology, or: The Rise and Rise of the Script-Kiddie (Kai Arzheimer)

Conclusion (Marianne Stewart)

If you are still reading, you will have noticed that we got away with not having devoted a chapter (exclusively) to Rational Choice

Jan 042017
 

The good folks over at the LSE (which, apart from running one of the most vibrant Political Science blogging sites on the planet also happens to host a university) have kindly asked me to look ahead at the likely outcome of the German Federal Election in September in general and the role of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in particular. I submitted my text early in December so that it could be published after Christmas. Following the terror attack on the Christmas market in Berlin, they offered me the opportunity to amend and slightly extend the text. I politely declined, because I thought that a horrific but fairly localised event such as this will not fundamentally affect the outcome of a still relatively distant election. I have been wrong before. Here is the link to the article on the EUROPP blog:

Dec 302016
 

2016 was a year of outrage. All over the globe, angry white men (well, mostly) were outraged over something (the EU, refugees, people of colour, feminists, and whatnot), and many took their outrage to the social media. One of the most outraging of them all will soon tweet from the White House. And all over my filterbubble, people are retweeting this outrageous dribble to show the world how outrageous it is, because they are, well, outraged. 

Now, some of them are waking up to the fact that, for rather obvious reasons, this is not necessarily a clever idea.

In an Internet galaxy far, far away, a long time ago, before social media or even the invention of the world wide web, people on the Usenet would occasionally engage in “flamewars” – protracted, hostile exchanges of opinion with a very low discourse quality index. Does this sound vaguely familiar? 

Traditionally, a flamewar would end with a final insult, followed by the addition of the opponent’s name to a “killfile” (the equivalent of blocking that person). Sending a very large binary file to the other side’s mailbox (then a deadly weapon that could bring down a whole computer system) was optional.

The wiser denizens of the Usenet, however, would spot a provocative statement that was likely to trigger a flamewar and simply ignore it. Instead of picking up the fight, they would try to warn off others who were about to get involved  with a mantra that was repeated with Yoda-like patience: “Don’t feed the troll.” 

Technology may have changed a bit. The nature and needs of the internet troll are remarkably constant.So: retweet responsibly. 

Dec 052016
 

For obvious reasons, books on the AfD are thin on the ground. It took me an unduly long time to review this one, not because there was anything wrong with the book but rather because something was wrong with my timekeeping and project mismanagement. Hopefully, the review should appear in one of the next issues of German Politics, but for the time being, I’m posting the author’s version here. And yes, most people who would be interested in the book would also be able to read the review in German. Odd. I know.

Alexander Häusler (Ed.): Die Alternative für Deutschland. Programmatik, Entwicklung und politische Verortung. Wiesbaden (VS), 2016, 251 pages, 29.99 Euros.

A party in transition

As an object of study, Germany’s new(-ish) Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD) is a moving target. Since its inception in early 2013, the party has gone from strength to strength and won parliamentary representation in the majority of the federal states and in the European Parliament. In all likelihood, the AfD will also enter the Bundestag, which would make it the first newcomer since 1990.

At the same time, the party underwent a remarkable transformation. While the AfD attracted a motley collection of right-wingers from the beginning, its public image was initially shaped by middle-aged conservative men, who had been, or could have been, former members of the Christian Democrats or the FDP. In 2013, the party’s very short manifesto was almost exclusively concerned with the reform of the EU and the Euro system and carefully avoided populist language. To the casual observer, the AfD may have looked like a breakaway from the CDU.

Two years down the line, the AfD’s most visible figure, Bernd Lucke, and many of his allies in the leadership had left the party. At the height of the Euro crisis, the AfD all but ditched Euroscepticism (still not a very salient issue in Germany) and began instead to focus on the familiar themes of immigration, asylum, and Islam. In the process, the AfD has arguably become Germany’s first modern and nationally successful Radical Right-Wing Populist Party.

The AfD in 2015

By necessity, any book on the AfD can only hope to provide a snapshot of the party’s rapidly unfolding development. One such snapshot, that nonetheless offers some deep insights, is the volume edited by Alexander Häusler. The 14 chapters (complemented by a short introduction and a concise summary) began their lives as papers for a conference that the FORENA research centre organised in February 2015. They have been updated for the book publication, but their style and content clearly reflects the dynamic nature of their object.

Häusler has organised the contributions along the lines of six broad themes: the AfD’s ideological position within the larger party system, the party’s prospective foreign policies, their positions on gender and family issues, their relationship with Pegida and Islamophobia more generally, their position vis-a-vis Germany’s New Right (“Neue Rechte”), and finally, the organisational realities on the ground (a somewhat odd section as there is only a single contribution: a case study on Brandenburg in early 2015). Accordingly, the chapters vary considerably in terms of their scope, methods, and outlook. For instance, in his analysis of the AfD’s position within and potential effect on the German party system, Frank Decker relies on the standard tool kit of comparative party (system) studies and looks at the AfD’s history, party ideology, membership, affiliations, and voters. Similarly, Marcel Lewandowsky applies (qualitative) content analysis to a set of party documents (mostly manifestos) to compare the AfD’s stance on EU politics and International Relations more generally to those of the CSU, NPD, and the “Freie Wähler”. Felix Korsch, on the other hand, presents a detailed quantitative analysis of publicly accessible sources to uncover the degree of overlap between (prominent) members of Pegida, of the AfD, and of other parties and organisation. He complements his findings by pointing out how some of the claims and demands voiced by Pegida resemble those made by the AfD, while other authors offer very detailed insights into the microcosm of right-wing movements and organisations in Germany.

The AfD’s gender agenda

Perhaps the most interesting section is the one on gender and family issues. Christian fundamentalism is a niche issue in Germany. Politically, it has been mostly confined to micro parties such as the Partei Bibeltreuer Christen (PBC). But Andreas Kemper and Ulli Jentsch demonstrate in their respective chapters that there is again overlap between Germany’s small pro-life movement and other ’anti-emancipatory’ actors on the one hand and elite actors within the AfD on the other. As a corollary, Jasmin Siri’s qualitative analysis of party documents reveals the outlines of a highly traditional, if not anti-feminist agenda.

Conclusion

Reflecting its origins in a conference, and, more importantly, the rapid transformation of the AfD itself, the book can not hope to provide a single, coherent and definitive statement on the young party. But this is not a shortcoming: The authors and the editor present a useful, multi-faceted snapshot of a party in transition that can serve as a starting point for a whole host of future avenues for research.

Nov 292016
 

Why is there support for the Radical Right?

I’ve just submitted the final (hopefully) draft of a chapter that I’m preparing for Jens Rydgren’s forthcoming Oxford Handbook of the Radical Right. The job description was to Explain Electoral Support for the Radical Right (read the pre-print here). In 8000 words or less. Sure thing. No pressure.

Potential causes of Radical Right voting

Outside Europe, believing in Hell is one probable cause

Given the formidable size of the literature on the Radical Right, I had to be brutal. The chapter organises the presumptive causes of right-wing voting along the lines of the familiar Micro-Meso-Macro scheme, focusing on a number of landmark studies on the one hand and some of the latest research on the other. I aim at weighing the evidence in favour and against some prominent hypotheses about the conditions for Radical Right party success, including the pure-protest hypothesis, the charismatic-leader hypothesis, and the silent-counter-revolution hypothesis. Following that, I discuss what we know about the effects of a host of meso- and macro-level factors, and point out some directions for further research. I concludes that Radical Right mobilisation is now the rule rather than the exception, and that we should perhaps focus on understanding why they are not successful in some cases.

Post-Truth Politics Disclaimer:

I completely made up that number

Nov 252016
 

Googling around for a citation Doing serious scholarly work, I stumbled upon this article that was published in Foreign Affairs back in 1997. It would seem that these guys were rather prescient here.

zakaria-fa-1997

Before you get too excited: On the next page, the article claims that liberal values and democracy are “interwoven in the Western political fabric, [but] are coming apart in the rest of the world. ” Like many others, I’m wondering if this is still a valid assertion. And yes, the warnings about Yeltsin look rather quaint now.

Nov 202016
 

I found this behind my desk whilst dusting.

Here is a polite suggestion: You might have used the indicative mood. It would have come across slightly more forceful and convincing. That, in turn, could have made a difference. Things would not be such a mess now. Next time around (if there were to be such a thing), you ought to bear that in mind.