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:
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.
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.
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.
Here is the (German language) source.
Nìmecko èekají v nedìli trojí zemské volby, který mohou velmi významnì pøepsat tamní politickou mapu. Volièi rozhodnou v tomto superhlasování o pøítích parlamentech v Porýní-Falci, Bádensku- Württembersku a Sasku-Anhaltsku.
So once in a lifetime, I was interviewed by a Czech newspaper. I recognise the people in the photo. And my name.
A mere three hours after the event, it’s obviously too early to write something coherent about the three state elections that were held in Germany today. So let’s try it anyway:
- For the time being, Germany has a viable Radical Right Populist Party. A result of ~24% in the Eastern state of Sachsen-Anhalt is a bit of a shock, but no huge surprise. The real clincher are the (low) double digit figures in the Western states of Rheinland-Pfalz and Baden-Württemberg. In the latter, the AfD is stronger than the SPD.
- The AfD cannibalised all the smaller right-wing parties including the NPD.
- This was not (just) a referendum on Merkel and her policies. While the issue dominated the campaigns, personalities and state-level factors were important. And the two CDU leaders who toyed with a (very tame) rebellion against Merkel did not gain from it.
- The volatility is shocking. Period
- German states have parliamentary systems, but popular minister presidents exerted an almost presidential effect. The contrast could not be more striking: In Baden-Württemberg, Kretschmann’s Greens are the strongest party (in itself something that is hard to believe), whereas their junior partner, the SPD, is heading for single-digit territory. One key reason is Kretschmann’s enormous popularity. In neighbouring Rheinland-Pfalz, minister president Dreyer has always been more popular than both her opponent and her SPD. But the latter steadily recovered in the polls over the last couple of weeks pull ahead of the CDU to become the strongest party with a respectable result. The Greens, on the other hand, lost two thirds of their support and might still end up without parliamentary representation. Being the smaller party in a coalition run by a popular minister president is not an attractive proposition these days.
- Turnout is up, yet it’s the non-established AfD that benefits from it. As a rule of thumb, right-wing outfits in Germany have always performed best in low-turnout, second-order elections. But this time, exit polls suggest that at least in the East, former non-voters gave the AfD a huge boost.
- And the Liberals are back.
The Extreme Right in Germany never fails to amaze. For those who think that the NPD – currently under threat to be banned because of their family resemblance with the original Hitler party – has gone to soft & mainstream, there is a tiny newish party that has a more … traditional … approach to politics. The party is contesting Exhibit 1 is a screenshot from their web page.
“Stop the flood of asylum seekers” and “close the borders” (on the left) are pretty much mainstream these days. The AfD uses very similar slogans, though with a less Teutonic font (look at those Roman numerals!)
But the barcode on the right instructs the aspiring nationalist how to spot products made in Israel. Right.
Exhibit 2 is even more revealing. It shows a map of refugee shelters in Germany, along with a “German winter relief” poster that could be straight from the 1940s. But my favourite is the picture in the bottom right, which calls for the destruction of Capitalism, which is to be replaced by “German Socialism”. This is otherwise known as “National Socialism”.
The name of this outfit? “Der Dritte Weg”, or The Third Way. Eat your heart out, Anthony Giddens.
Ob die AfD am Sonntag noch in drei Landesparlamente mehr einzieht oder nicht, ist für den Parteienforscher Kai Arzheimer nicht die entscheidende Frage. Wichtiger sei, in welche inhaltliche Richtung die AfD drifte und welcher Parteilinie sich durchsetze.
Mit Katrin Heise von Deutschlandradio Kultur habe ich ein ausführliches über Rechtspopulismus gestern und heute und über den Umgang mit der AfD geführt.
Die AfD in den sozialen Medien: Gespräch mit Phoenix. Mehr dazu in meinem APSA 2015-Papier zur AfD im Internet.
The German chancellor’s conservative party is likely to lose some support during three state elections on Sunday as a right-wing rival party profits from the refugee crisis. But if her policies finally bear fruit, she could soon be back on top.
Over at Handelsblatt Global, Siobhán Dowling has another excellent article on the state of German (state) politics, with a little input from yours truly.