Blog posts on the Alternative for Germany (AfD)

The Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, or AfD for short) is a new-ish far-right party in Germany. 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 their rise particularly intriguing for me.

In 2015, I have published an article in which I argue that the AfD was then not yet a populist radical right party. More recently, I have shown how how Alternative for Germany and their voters have changed from 2013-2017. They now fit very comfortably into the radical-right template.

I also have an article in German on the competition between Alternative for Germany and the LEFT party for the eastern German vote. Besides writing long-form articles on the party and their voters, I also blog (too much) about them. Here are my most recent posts.

Jun 232019
 

The “Alternative for Germany” began its political life as a softly eurosceptic breakaway from the political mainstream but has changed beyond all recognition. Using a very large dataset covering the full 2013-17 period, Carl Berning and I trace the transformation of the AfD’s electorate, which now fits the somewhat stereotypical radical right template. Read the full article, or watch the highlights in just under 90 seconds.

How the AfD and their voters veered to the Radical Right, 2013-17

Jun 212019
 

On a very slow news day, two third-tier politicians for the centre-right CDU phantasise over future coalitions with the “moderates/liberals” within the AfD (where would they find them?). Ah yes, they also want to re-unite “the National” and “the Social”, which, by the lego-like greatness of the German language, becomes the “National-Social”.

James F. Downes has an interesting long read on Alternative for Germany’s internal/inter-regional conflicts. It chimes with my own recent article on the development of the AfD and the normalisation of right-wing populism in Germany. Somewhat surprisingly, these contradictions are still not harming the party.

Sorry to disappoint: Brendan Nyhan explains why the current polls showing that Trump is trailing various Democrats are useless.

People in rich & healthy countries stop believing in vaccinations. In the so-called developing world, vaccinations are still trusted. Find these and other fascinating findings in the latest Wellcome Monitor

May 272019
 

The AfD was founded near Germany’s financial centre of gravity (Frankfort) by members of the old western elites. But early on, the eastern states of Brandenburg, Saxony, and Thuringia became important for the further development of the party. It was here, during the 2014 state election season, that the AfD began to toy (very reluctantly at first) with anti-Muslim sentiment. And the ensuing radicalisation of the AfD was pushed by leaders from these three states (Gauland, Höcke, and Petry).

Lokale Hochburgen (Wahlbezirke) von AfD und Linkspartei, 2017

Lokale Hochburgen (Wahlbezirke) von AfD und Linkspartei, 2017. Click for larger version.

In the process, the south-east of the former GDR has become the AfD’s heartland. When Andre Poggenburg, another hardliner, broke away over the AfD’s alleged compromises (and his personal finances and conduct), he set up a new party for “Mitteldeutschland” – the ill-defined and sometimes ill-reputed part at the south-eastern edge of the country.

In the 2017 federal election, the AfD did extraordinarily well here. Most of the wards in which the AfD is the dominant party can be found in this corner of Germany.

Regional support (district level) for the AfD in the EP 2019 election

Regional AfD support in the EP 2019. Made with this excellent tool created by the electoral commission Click for larger version.

The results of yesterday’s European election are similarly revealing. While their national performance – almost two points below their 2017 national result – must look disappointing from their point of view, they polled up to 33 per cent in some of the south-eastern districts, making them by far the strongest party. And the next round of voting (and government formation) in Brandenburg, Saxony, and Thuringia will be interesting, to say the least. If the cordon sanitaire holds, it could result in truly awkward coalitions. And if it doesn’t, all bets are off.

But quite apart from these more practical consequences, such levels of disparity are quite something to behold.

Apr 192019
 

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.

Apr 062019
 

More on the AfD’s donation scandal(s): media report that the ultimate source of the illicit donations to Alice Weidel is a German billionaire dynasty. The family also donated to the Swiss SVP. You will not be surprised to hear that they have pan-European global interests, moved to Switzerland, became dual nationals, and divide their time between London & Zurich. When you are a member of the global elite with lots of money, it just makes sense to support populist, nationalist, anti-migration parties for the lolz.

I always suspected that old Hobbes (the philosopher, not the cartoon character) was a party pooper. I’m just surprised that this was so literally true.

Dealing with packages in R can be somewhat painful, at least for me. Here is pak, a package that claims to make installing more packages less of a hassle, once you’ve managed to install it.

With less than two months to go until the EP elections, it is time to stir up some social media moral panic. And there is good reason for that. Here is an interesting piece by someone who claims to be involved in the development of youtube’s recommendation engine. Shock, surprise: apparently he helped create a monster that has learned that the average youtube viewer wants to see more, more, more anti-media content. Judging by my own recommendations, the monster delivers.

Staying with this theme, here is a post on social-media marketing your research. I read it twice to make extra sure that is indeed satire. YOU WILL BE SHOCKED. And now click on that darn link to demonstrate that the trick works.

Look Ma, no Brexit link!

Apr 022019
 
Lokale Hochburgen (Wahlbezirke) von AfD und Linkspartei, 2017

Die AfD: in Ostdeutschland erfolgreich

Seit 2014 ist die “Alternative für Deutschland” bei Landtagswahlen in Ostdeutschland sehr viel erfolgreicher als im Westen. Auch bei der Bundestagswahl 2017 wurde die AfD in weiten Teilen Ostdeutschlands zur stärksten Kraft. Nicht zuletzt aufgrund dieses sehr guten Abschneidens im Osten ist die AfD im Bundestag stärker vertreten als die Linke. 31 der AfD-Abgeordneten im Bundestag kommen aus Berlin oder den neuen Bundesländern. Vor dem Parteiaustritt von Frauke Petry und Mario Mieruch waren es sogar 33. Bei der Linken sind es nur 26. In allen ostdeutschen Bundesländern außer Berlin hat die AfD teils deutlich mehr Stimmen erzielt als die Linke. Hat also die AfD die Linkspartei als ostdeutsche Regionalvertretung abgelöst?

Lokale Hochburgen der AfD in Ostdeutschlandund im Westen in blau, Hochburgen der Links in rot

Lokale Hochburgen (Wahlbezirke) von AfD und Linkspartei, 2017

“Alternative für Deutschland” noch ohne Ost-Bonus

In einem aktuellen Buchkapitel zur Rolle der AfD im Osten argumentiere ich, daß dies (noch) nicht der Fall ist. Warum nicht? Anders als bei der Linken läßt sich die Dominanz der AfD in Ostdeutschland fast vollständig durch die Verteilung der Einstellungen zur Zuwanderung erklären. Diese sind in den neuen Ländern deutlich negativer ausgeprägt, und davon profitiert die AfD. Kontrolliert man dies statistisch, dann zeigt sich kein signifikanter Regionaleffekt mehr. Außerdem schwanken die Ergebnisse der AfD in Ostdeutschland und im alten Westen sehr stark über die Wahlkreise hinweg. Ihre Schwerpunkte hat die AfD vor allem im vorstädtischen und ländlichen Sachsen und in Teilen Thüringens und Sachsen-Anhalts. Bei der Linkspartei gilt das nicht im gleichen Maße.

Stimmenanteile von AfD und Linkspartei auf Wahlbezirksebene nach Bundesländern, 2017

Stimmenanteile von AfD und Linkspartei auf Wahlbezirksebene nach Bundesländern, 2017

Die AfD ist stark im Osten, vor allem in Sachsen

Zwar gibt es auch für die Wahl der Linkspartei eine zentrale Einstellung, nämlich die Frage nach Steuern und Sozialleistungen. Hält man diese konstant, schneidet die Partei in den neuen Ländern trotzdem sehr viel besser ab, als dies eigentlich der Fall sein sollte. Mit den vorhandenen Daten läßt sich nicht klären, ob dies auf die Organisationsstruktur der Linken, eine DDR-Nostalgie oder andere Faktoren zurückgeht. Sicher ist aber, daß die Linkspartei noch immer in besonderer Weise den Osten repräsentiert.

Das Kapitel zur Stellung der AfD in Ostdeutschland ist noch nicht druckreif, aber im wesentlichen abgeschlossen. Es soll im nächsten Band der Reihe Wahlen und Wähler erscheinen, der sich mit dem Ergebnis der Bundestagswahl 2017 befassen wird.

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Mar 262019
 

The co-leader of the right-wing populist “Alternative for Germany” finally admits that the received assistance from a Swiss media agency (in German). The price tag? About €90,000. Find the juicy details here (in German) or read my short summary of the many AfD scandals.

Sarah Wagenknecht was one of the main obstacles to a closer co-operation amongst Germany’s left-wing parties. Now that she is stepping down, there is speculation about a “red-red-green” (rather: “green-red-red”) coalition in Berlin. The main problem with that? The Green’s gains are (largely) the SPD’s losses.

Here is an interesting Politbarometer poll from mid-March 2019: 73% of Germans are sorry to see UK leave the EU, but 72% think further negotiations are pointless and will still lead to no deal. 83% believe Brexit will cause major problems for UK, vs 50% in EU.

Mar 162019
 

Germany’s carnival is supposed to be funny and political. Usually it is neither. But sometimes, there is a glimpse.

Mocked at Mainz

This is a picture I took at the Rosenmontagszug in Mainz, a major parade that attracts hundreds of thousands of revellers. The front of the float shows a pretty realistic AfD election poster (I did not get my phone out in time to take a snap). This is the float’s backside. The sign reads “it’s difficult to conceal”.

Dissed at Düsseldorf

And here is another gem from Düsseldorf: AfD Hardliner Höcke as Göbbel’s baby.

Feb 282019
 

Mit dem Handelsblatt habe ich über einen möglichen Rückzug Alexander Gaulands von seinen Ämtern gesprochen.

Es ist fraglich, ob es in der AfD noch einen in irgendeiner Form organisierten gemäßigten Flügel gibt.

Mit Gauland verlöre die AfD eine der letzten Persönlichkeiten, die nicht auf Grundlage ihrer Positionen, aber doch wenigstens auf Grund ihrer Biographie und ihres Habitus für Medien und Politik als satisfaktionsfähig gilt.

Feb 102019
 
AfD results in 2017 federal election in Germany (map of districts)

As (West) European election years go, 2017 was quite something. The French party system changed beyond recognition. The radical right entered Germany’s national parliament for the first time. UKIP was wiped out, but May still managed to lose a comfortable majority. And very high fragmentation resulted in a coalition that looks improbable even by Dutch standards.

SCoRE is our multinational project that explores the link between local and regional living conditions on the one hand and radical right attitudes and behaviours in these four countries on the other. Sometimes, serendipity is really a thing. Because we had our individual-level data collection scheduled for this year anyway, we gained some unique insights into all four big Western European elections of 2017.

Accordingly, my colleagues have written up reports for France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK, complete with beautiful maps. Who does not like maps?

Four 2017 elections that changed West European Politics: France, Germany, the Netherlands & the UK

But perhaps you’re pressed for time or not sure if you really want to read four (fairly short) reports? With the European Parliamentary elections on the horizon, I made a short explainer/teaser video about them to bring you up to speed in just over two minutes. I have a hunch that afterwards, you will want to read all four pieces.