Blog posts on the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)

The Alternative für Deutschland, or AfD for short, is a new-ish far-right party in Germany. The Extreme Right in Europe is one of my main research interests, and for many years, there had been no (successful) party in Germany to occupy this place in the political spectrum. I have published an article on the Alternative für Deutschland in West European Politics, and I'm currently working on another research paper on their use of Facebook. In the meantime, I blog on current developments and controversies within the party.

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 282016
 

I had a lengthy chat with someone from Bloomberg on the AfD and their use of Social Media. The result is a short piece with some soundbites by me. If you want to know a little more about the AfD’s role in the darker corners of the German Interwebs, have a look at my APSA Paper on the AfD and Social Media (colourful pictures to be found towards the end of the PDF).

Nov 232016
 

Mit dem Handelsblatt habe ich darüber gesprochen, ob die AfD in Ostdeutschland zur Volkspartei wird.

Nov 112016
 

Im Gespräch mit dem Handelsblatt erkläre ich, warum ich nicht glaube, daß die AfD im großen Umfang von Trumps Wahlerfolg profitieren kann.

Nov 082016
 

The ‘s leadership is highly fragmented. Regional figures play an important role for the ideology and image of the party. The national executive has not one, but two party chairs. While Frauke Petry is the more prominent and visibly of the two, co-leader Jörg Meuthen, an academic economist, has long refused to be sidelined in the struggle for power within the party.

For months, Meuthen has declined to rule out that he would stand as Spitzenkandidat for his party in the upcoming 2017 Bundestag election. But yesterday, he finally announced that he wants to keep his seat in the Baden-Württemberg state parliament. Of course, there is a barb: Meuthen also said that someone else could be Petry’s co-Spitzenkandidat.

Source: Jörg Meuthen: AfD-Chef will nicht in den Bundestag

Sep 182016
 

A friendly chat with AFP became part of their story on the fallout from the Berlin election. Incidentally, the text was widely cross-published in Asia, and so I’m becoming a household name in Vietnam, China, and Pakistan 🙂

Sep 162016
 

The good folks over at CEMES are running a lecture series on the “New Political Right in Continental Europe“. What’s even better: they have kindly invited me to talk about Germany. Here is the abstract of my presentation:german-far-right-copenhagen-0

For decades, Germany has been a tough ground for the Radical Right. Support for right-wing parties such as the DVU, NPD, or REP was inconsistent and mostly confined to the local and regional levels, chiefly because these parties remained tied to National Socialism, rendering them unpalatable to (most) voters. This has changed with the rise of the new “Alternative for Germany” (AfD), which, in September 2013, only months after its inception, came tantalisingly close to the five-percent threshold in the 2013 General election. Since then, the AfD has entered ten state parliaments and seems firmly on its way to become a national political force that will, at a minimum, make coalition formation much more difficult. This talk aims at giving an overview of the party, its relationship with the wider right-wing sector in Germany, and its position vis-a-vis other Radical Right parties in Europe.

Update: Slides are now available for viewing/download

Sep 162016
 

Handelsblatt Global has a piece on the upcoming state election in Berlin. I try to evaluate the consequences of the likely result for federal politics.

Sep 052016
 

The result of yesterday’s regional election in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania (aka Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for the initiated or Meck-Pomm for the impatient) was not a surprise, but still a shock to many. I wrote a short article for the LSE’s EUROPP blog.

Angela Merkel’s CDU came third behind the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the German Social Democrats (SPD) in elections in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania on 4 September. Kai Arzheimer writes that wh…

Head over to EUROPP – The AfD’s second place in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania illustrates the challenge facing Merkel in 2017 for the full article.

Jul 272016
 

In a press statement this morning, the AfD’s deputy leader Alexander Gauland (who is also head of the party’s chapter and the parliamentary party in the Eastern state of Brandenburg) has demanded a (temporary) ban on Muslims seeking refuge in Germany “until all asylum seekers in Germany have been registered, checked upon, and have their applications processed”. No, I don’t know how this should work in practice (if it was constitutional) either. But it’s nice step towards the Trumpification of European Politics.Refugee Ship Silhouette

Here is the (German language) source.