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.

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 1

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.

May 142021
 

The gamification of our personal and professional lives is a terrible idea. Elsevier is evil. More generally, the current model of academic publishing is unsustainable. And I’m a very happy chappy this afternoon. All these statements can be (and indeed are) simultaneously true.

Our article on the changing electorate of the AfD is currently the most cited recent article in Electoral Studies
Achim Goerres just sent me this little gem, which makes my Friday.

So our article on the changing motives of people voting for the AfD during a period in which the AfD radicalised quite a bit has been frequently cited (about 30 times) over the last months. Yay us!

Obviously, the 2018-2021 window is totally arbitrary. Also, comparing an article to others published in the same journal makes kind of sense (they should be, well, comparable), but the group of all Political Science articles published in the same year (or quarter) would probably be a more useful point of reference. Moreover, German universities are still sort-of-boycotting Elsevier, so I feel mildly bad about publishing with them. Plus we could not benefit from the DEAL agreements that would have waived the fees for going Open Access, because there is still no DEAL with evil Elsevier.

But hey, this article is one of my favourite children. It was a long time in the making. I’m happy that it finally found a good home at Electoral Studies, and I’m even happier that people read and cite it. 30 cites within 20 months is not bad for a piece published in a specialist journal. Eat your heart out, More General Interest Journal That Rejected Its Previous Incarnation.

And while it would have been great to publish it as Open Access, the very similar pre-print is still available for your perusal: How the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and their voters veered to the radical right, 2013-2017.

Mar 202021
 
Oh joy, oh fun: looks like the AfD is going to kick off the national campaign with another leadership battle. Will probably come to naught, but might be entertaining nonetheless