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. I have published an article on the Alternative for Germany 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.

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.

Jan 252019
 

Last weekend, AfD leader Alexander Gauland gave a lecture at a “winter school” organised by the Institut für Staatspolitik (IfS). The IfS is a far-right think whose state aim it is to form the future elite of far-right leaders. If you think that leader of Germany’s biggest opposition party being part of such a thing is a big deal, you’re right. The story got little coverage in Germany and no coverage internationally, so I made a 90 second explainer video. If you like it, please share it.

Alexander Gauland, co-leader of the AfD, headlines a far-right "winter school"

 

Jan 192019
 

What is the “winter school” for Germany’s New Right?

This weekend, Alexander Gauland, co-leader of the AfD, will give a lecture at the annual “winter school”, a weekend seminar that is organised by the “Institut für Staatspolitik” (IfS). The IfS is a Wannabe-Nouvelle-Droite think tank based in Schnellroda, a tiny village in Saxony-Anhalt. Its mastermind is Götz Kubitschek, a far-right publisher, author and self-styled “New Right” intellectual.

Götz Kubitschek, co-founder of the IfS, invites Gauland to Schnellroda

Götz Kubitschek Metropolico.org [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Kubitschek believes in meta-politic: a conscious attempt to alter the meaning of words and establish new frames, to shift discourses and to form the minds of new generations, all in a bid to change the course of the nation. He and his associates borrowed this concept from the French Nouvelle Droite, who in turn got some ideas from the German “Konservative Revolution” of the 1920s and 1930s and mixed them, ironically, with a bit of Gramsci.

Their “winter school” is a crucial part of the meta-political strategy. It is run exclusively for people under the age of 35. Students pay just 60 € for two nights, including full board and access to all lectures. If they subscribe to “Sezession”, a highbrow right-wing magazine published by Kubitschek and the IfS, this is further discounted to 40 €. Getting to Schnellroda is definitively the most costly part of the weekend. But why is Gauland going to Schnellroda as a speaker? 

Schnellroda: Götz Kubitschek, the IfS, and the AfD

Kubitschek lives the Altdeutsch dream. More specifically, he lives in the local manor house, together his wife Ellen Kositza (also a far-right author) and their many children, who bear traditional Germanic names. We know all this from the newspapers. Kubitschek’s elite brand of far-right politics has attracted an unhealthy interest from mainstream journalists, who are occasionally allowed to visit the couple in exchange for half-gushy, half-disgusted home stories. Scientists are similarly intrigued, and there is a lot of research (in German) about the “New Right” networks Kubitschek and his ilk form. I sometimes wonder if his influence and importance are seriously overestimated.

Helmut Kellershohn: Das Institut für Staatspolitik und das jungkonservative Hegemonieprojekt. In: Stephan Braun, Alexander Geisler, Martin Gerster (Hrsg.): Strategien der extremen Rechten: Hintergründe – Analysen – Antworten. 2. aktualisierte und erweiterte Auflage, Springer Fachmedien, Wiesbaden 2015,

In the past, Kubitschek’s radicalism and elitism made for an uneasy relationship with the AfD. In 2015, when the party’s transformation from soft-eurosceptic to radical right came under way, he and Kositza applied for membership. They were initially accepted, but within days, the national executive, then still controlled by Bernd Lucke, intervened and rejected their applications. Nonetheless, Kubitschek is closely involved with the most radical Eastern circles in the party, whose members regularly attend events at Schnellroda. It was here, at an IfS meeting, that Höcke made his infamous speech about “Africans”, and it was Kubitschek who put a video of that speech online.

In his characteristically cringeworthy style, Höcke has praised the manor house as a sort of spiritual home for the AfD’s hardliners. In turn, Kubitschek and Kositza have attended conferences organised by the “Flügel”, the far-right network that is now under scrutiny by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), i.e. the secret service.

AfD leader Gauland speaks at Schnellroda, the infamous far-right gathering run by the IfS

Leader of the opposition, leader of the AfD, keynote speaker at Schnellroda – all in a day’s work Original picture: Metropolico.org [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Kubitschek has also spoken at “Pegida” and “Legida” events. At the invitation of Matteo Salvini, he has attended a Lega conference, but he also has contacts to the neo-fascist Casa Pound and has even published a Casa-inspired book in translation. He is friends with Martin Sellner, one of the most prominent figures in the “Identitarian” movement, and works closely with Jürgen Elsässer, one of the most prominent figures of the German far-out-right. Kubitschek is no neo-Nazi – that would be far to vulgar. But he puts himself into the succession line of the “Konservative Revolution”, the young, revolutionary and above all anti-democratic movement that operated at the fringes of conservatism in the Weimar Republic and helped to pave the way for the real Nazis.

What is Gauland doing at the Schnellroda “Winter School”?

In short, the IfS’s “winter school” is a remarkable event for Gauland to attend, let alone to give a lecture. Gauland is by no means the first AfD politician to speak at Schnellroda, but as national co-leader and co-leader of the AfD’s caucus in the Bundestag, he is by far the most prominent one. Gauland has attended “Flügel” meetings in the past, and has repeatedly defended Höcke. But he is still widely seen as “bürgerlich”, because as a former high-ranking bureaucrat, CDU member and conservative journalist, he is a card-carrying member of the elite that has run this country for seven decades.

In a press conference this week, the BfV announced that they would put the Flügel under enhanced scrutiny, which can even include measures such as phone tapping. When a journalist asked whether this could also affect Gauland, the BfV’s president said that would depend on what kind of information they would come unearth in the coming weeks and months. In this situation, speaking at Schnellroda is either particularly brave or extraordinarily stupid. Either way, we have reached the point where, within a single week, we have learned that the leader of the biggest opposition party in the Bundestag a) may come under observation by the secret service and b) is the headline speaker at a notorious far-right gathering. What a time to be alive.

Jan 182019
 

An Economist study finds that the quality of democracy is highest in Australia, Canada, and Scandinavia. No big surprise here. Time to move?

You may have heard that a prominent member of the AfD was physically attacked in Bremen, which the AfD managed to put all over social media. The police say the initial account of the story does not match CCTV from the scene.

Another police officer in Hesse has come under scrutiny over ties to right-wing extremist networks: he is accused of leaking police information to two Neo Nazis. Worrying, to say the least.

Pankaj Mishra thinks that Brexit reflects everything British upper-middle and upper classes have inflicted on the large parts of Asia and Africa. A scathing and not implausible reading of modern history.