Blog posts on the Alternative for Germany (AfD)

The Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, or AfD for short) is a populist radical right party in Germany.

Back in 2015, I published an article in which I argue that the AfD was then not yet a populist radical right party. More recently, I have demonstrated how how Alternative for Germany and their voters have changed from 2013-2017. Now, both fit very comfortably into the radical-right template. In yet another contribution, I show how the AfD differs from older extreme right parties in Germany, and how the AfD's rise has affected the Germany polity. I also have an article in German on the competition between Alternative for Germany and the LEFT party for the eastern German vote<. And finally, here is a paper on a href="https://www.kai-arzheimer.com/paper/afd-east-west-cleavage-breakthrough/">why the AfD is much more successful in the East.

The Extreme/Radical 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 particular place in the political spectrum. This makes the AfD's rise particularly intriguing for me. Besides writing long-form articles on the party and their voters, I also blog (too much) about them. Here are my most recent posts.

Jan 252022
 

My old chums at Essex have kindly invited me back to the departmental seminar. This used to involve tricky questions, questions that were really comments, and (afterwards, as this is not Downing Street), wine, cheese, and good company. These days, we have Zoom, which is better than nothing, I suppose.

My talk was based on a paper. that addresses two related question: why is the AfD so strong in Germany’s eastern states, and what role did/does the east play for the party. Here are my slides:

And If you find this remotely interesting, you may also want to have a look at this related presentation.

Jan 062022
 

My piece on the role that Germany’s eastern states – the territory of the former GDR – have played for the breakthrough and rise of the radical right Alternative for Germany has been “forthcoming” for a while. So long indeed that it was necessary to update this graph, which shows how (and where) electoral support for the AfD has waxed and waned between 2013 and 2021.

 

Germany's AfD 2013-2021: much, much stronger in the eastern states 1

AfD support from 2013 until 2021

The strong gray line shows (smoothed) support for the Alternative in public opinion polls (FGW and Infratest). The boost in 2016 that followed the “refugee crisis” is clearly visible, as well as another peak in 2018 after the party entered the Bundestag. It is also clear that support for the party has declined since then and has been more or less stable through the pandemic.

The circles represent state election results, with black markers for the eastern and hollow markers for the western states. The difference in support is striking and remains stable over the whole period. There is also considerable variation within both blocks. “Mitteldeutschland” (the southern part of the former GDR) stands as an AfD stronghold.

Squares and diamonds represent the party’s results in nationwide (Bundestag and EP) elections. The east-west gap is very visible here, too. In the 2021 Bundestag election, the party won 20.5 per cent of the vote in the east, but only 8.2 per cent in the west.

Aug 032021
 

Mit Stefanie Witte habe ich über das (oft unparlamentarische) Verhalten der AfD im Bundestag und den Landtagen und die Reaktionen der anderen Parteien gesprochen. Der Artikel ist in der Schweriner Volkszeitung und verschiedenen anderen Zeitungen erschienen, ist aber anscheinend überall hinter einer Paywall verborgen.

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Jun 242021
 
A guide to Alternative for Germany's donation scandals 2

Update June 24, 2021

German prosecutors have asked the European Parliament to lift Meuthen’s immunity. In other words, the co-leader of the self-styled law-and-order party has become the object of a criminal investigation.

Update April 19, 2019

The prosecutor for Berlin is investigating the AfD’s treasurer over support the party received from the association-for-whatnot (see #6 below). Printing and distributing newspapers that are essentially campaign material amounts to making a donation, the prosecutor thinks – a donation that the party failed to declare in two consecutive years. The services donated were worth a “low six-digit figure”.

Update April 16, 2019

The Bundestag’s central administration, which is charge of state funding for parties, has ordered the AfD to pay a fine of €402,900, i.e. three times the value of the services received by Meuthen (see point #3 below) and Reil (point #5). It is likely that the party will also be fined over the donations to Weidel. The AfD had set aside a million Euros to cover for fines.

What is the matter with Alternative for Germany’s finances?

Just in time for the upcoming European elections, new details on Alternative for Germany’s donation scandals emerge. Yes, scandals is in the plural, and the wailing sound in the background is the of “fake news!” from the party’s faithful. So what is the matter?

The AfD loves to talk about the “Altparteien” (the old parties, i.e. the establishment, the spent forces etc.). This is in itself a nice show of political mimicry: “Altparteien” is what the Greens used to call the trinity of Social Democrats, Christian Democrats, and Liberals, when they rose as a radical alternative to politics as usual in the 1990s.

Money and the AfD

Follow the money

In the 1980s and 1990s, the latter two parties executed bypassing rules on party financing to near-perfection. As a reaction to this, rules for transparency have been somewhat tightened, and more importantly, enforcement has become a bit stricter.

Now the “Alternative” has taken a whole bunch of leaves from the old parties’ playbook. For your edification and because I’m losing track, here is a list of the top-seven financial scandals in which the party is currently involved.

7 8 financial scandals in which Alternative for Germany is currently involved

  1. Alice Weidel, the co-leader of the AfD’s parliamentary group in the Bundestag, is under investigation for receiving 150,000 Euros in 18 neat tranches from a company in Switzerland, which would be illegal under German law. Extraordinarily, the company claims that they merely provided a facade for illegal cash flows originating in Germany. As you do. Both Swiss and German authorities are on the case.
  2. Under a similar scheme, the AfD state party in North Rhine-Westphalia has received about 50,000 Euros from a dubious Dutch foundation. The party claims that they have returned the money later but failed to inform the authorities within the prescribed time-frame.
  3. There is another Swiss connection, involving co-leader and Spitzenkandidat for the EP election Jörg Meuthen. Back in 2016, “Goal”, a Swiss agency, has provided advertisements, flyers, design, and whatnot worth a cool 90,000 Euros. Meuthen claims that he only gave permission to use his likeness and was in no way part of the advertising campaign, which was paid for by 10 benefactors. In other words: no collusion.
  4. Last year, Meuthen finally presented a list of the alleged benefactors. This week, at least two of these have now come out claiming that they did not give any money but rather accepted a 1,000 Euro bribe for their name to appear on the official record.
  5. The AfD’s number two for the EP election, Guido Reil, also benefitted from services provided by “Goal” worth 50,000 Euros. The prosecution service has opened an investigation this week. Bummer.
  6. Then there is the long-running story of an obscure “association for the rule of law and the protection of civil liberties”, which has spent big time on advertising for the “Alternative” but claims to be independent of the party. If co-ordination between the organisation can be proven, the AfD would be fined heavily. It goes without saying that the association is also connected to “Goal”.
  7. Finally, it has emerged that Alexander Gauland is being investigated over his tax returns. While there is no Swiss connection and while this is primarily a private, not a party matter, it nicely caps of the list.
  8. Update: On March 28 2019, it emerged that Weidel seems to have received money from the same group of straw donors.

It is not easy running a law & order party. Especially the “law” part seems to be very tricky. Stay tuned.