Alternative for Germany

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Alternative for Germany
Alternative für Deutschland
Chairman Bernd Lucke[1]
Frauke Petry
Konrad Adam
Founded 6 February 2013
Youth wing Young Alternative for Germany
Membership  (2014) Increase 21,785[2]
Ideology Euroscepticism
Political position Centre-right [3]
International affiliation None
European affiliation None
European Parliament group European Conservatives and Reformists
Colours          Azure, Red
0 / 631
State Parliaments
44 / 1,857
European Parliament
7 / 96
Politics of Germany
Political parties

Alternative for Germany (German: Alternative für Deutschland, AfD) is a Eurosceptic[4][5][6] and conservative[7] political party in Germany founded in 2013. The party won 4.7% of the vote in the 2013 federal election, narrowly missing the 5% electoral threshold, and won 7 seats in the 2014 European election, joining the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in June 2014. As of 2015 the AfD has since gained representation in four German state parliaments.


Founding 2012-2013[edit]

In September 2012, Alexander Gauland, a retired state secretary, Bernd Lucke, a former World Bank economist and Konrad Adam, a former editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from 1979 to 2000 and chief correspondent of Die Welt until 2008 founded the political group Electoral Alternative 2013 (German: Wahlalternative 2013) in Bad Nauheim, to oppose German federal policies dealing with the eurozone crisis. Their manifesto was endorsed by 68 economists, journalists, and business leaders, half of whom were professors and three quarters of whom had academic degrees.[8] The group stated that the eurozone had proven to be "unsuitable" and that southern European states were "sinking into poverty under the competitive pressure of the euro".[9]

Logo 2f "Wahlalternative 2013"

Some members of the later AfD sought election in Lower Saxony as the Electoral Alternative 2013 in alliance with the Free Voters, an association participating in local elections without specific federal or foreign policies, and received 1% of the vote.[10][9]In February 2013 the group decided to found a new party to compete in the 2013 federal elections. The Free Voters leadership declined to join forces, per a leaked email from Bernd Lucke.[11] Advocating for the abolition of the Euro the Alternative for Germany (AfD) took a more radical stance than the Free Voters.[12] Likewise, the Pirate Party of Germany opposed any coalition with the AfD at their 2013 spring convention.[13]

Konrad Adam (left), Frauke Petry and Bernd Lucke during the first AfD convention on 14 April 2013 in Berlin

The AfD's initial supporters were the same prominent economists, business leaders and jopurnalists that had supported the Electoral Alternative 2013, including former members of the Christian Democratic Union, who had previously challenged the constitutionality of the German government's eurozone policies at the German Constitutional Court.[14][15]

Second vote share percentage for AfD in the 2013 federal election in Germany, final result.

On 14 April 2013, the AfD held its first convention in Berlin, elected the party leadership and adopted a party platform. Bernd Lucke,[16] entrepreneur Frauke Petry and Konrad Adam were elected as speakers.[17] The AfD federal board also chose three deputy speakers, Alexander Gauland, Roland Klaus and Patricia Casale. The party elected treasurer Norbert Stenzel and the three assessors Irina Smirnova, Beatrix Diefenbach and Wolf-Joachim Schünemann. The economist Joachim Starbatty, along with Jörn Kruse, Helga Luckenbach, Dirk Meyer and Roland Vaubel were elected to the party's scientific advisory board. Between 31 March 2013 and 12 May 2013 the AfD founded affiliates in all 16 German states in order to participate in the federal elections. On 15 June 2013 the Young Alternative for Germany was founded in Darmstadt as the AfD's youth organisation.[18]

In April 2013, during David Cameron's visit to Germany, the British Conservative Party was reported to have contacted both AfD and the Free Voters to discuss possible cooperation, supported by the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group of the European Parliament.[19] In June 2013, Bernd Lucke gave a question and answer session organised by the Conservative Party allied Bruges Group think tank in Portcullis House, London.[20][21]

2013 federal election[edit]

Further information: German federal election, 2013

On 22 September 2013, the AfD won 4.7% of the votes in the 2013 federal election, missing the 5% barrier to enter the Bundestag. The party won about 2 million party list votes and 810,000 constituency votes, which was 1.9% of the total of these votes cast across Germany.[22]

2013 state elections[edit]

The AfD did not participate in the 2013 Bavaria state election held on 15 September 2013. The AfD gained its first representation in the state parliament of Hesse with the defection of Jochen Paulus from the Free Democratic Party (FDP) to the AfD in early May 2013,[23] but he left the party in July, was not re-elected and left office in January 2014.[24] In July 2013, Lucke said the party's "prime goal was to expel the heavily indebted Southern European countries".[16] Lucke also approached the head of Pirate Party Germany to form an anti-eurozone political alliance to no avail.[25] In the 2013 Hesse state election held on 22 September 2013, the same day as the 2013 federal election, the AfD failed to gain representation in the parliament with 4.0% of the vote.

2014 European Parliament election[edit]

Former "Mut zur Wahrheit! The Euro splits Europe" tagline on election placard 2013

The AfD held a party conference on 25 January 2014 at Frankenstolz Arena, Aschaffenburg northwest Bavaria. The conference chose the slogan Mut zu Deutschland ("Courage to stand up for Germany") to replace the former slogan Mut zur Wahrheit ("Courage to speak the truth"),[26] which prompted disagreement among the federal board that the party could be seen as too anti-European. Eventually a compromise was reached by using the slogan "MUT ZU D*EU*TSCHLAND, with the "EU" in "DEUTSCHLAND" encircled by the 12 stars of the European flag.[27] The conference elected the top six candidates for the European Elections on 26 January 2014 and convened for a second meeting the following weekend to choose the remaining euro candidates.[26][27][28] Candidates from 7-28 place were chosen in Berlin on 1 February.[29] Party chairman Bernd Lucke was elected as lead candidate.In February 2014, AfD officials said they had discussed alliances with Britain's anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP), which Bernd Lucke and the federal board of AfD opposed, and also with the ECR group, to which the British Conservative Party belongs.[30] In early 2014, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany ruled the proposed 3% vote hurdle for representation in the European Elections unconstitutional, and the 2014 European Parliament election became the first run without a barrier for representation in Germany.[31] In April 2014 Hans-Olaf Henkel, AfD's second candidate on the European election list, ruled out forming a group with UKIP after the 2014 European election.[32] stating that he saw the British Conservatives as the preferred partner in the European Parliament.[32] On 10 May 2014 Bernd Lucke had been in talks with the Czech and Polish member parties of ECR group.[33]

On 25 May 2014 European election, the AfD landed on fifth place in Germany, with 7.1% of the national vote (2,065,162 votes), and 7 members of the EU parliament.[34] On 12 June 2014 it was announced that the AfD had been accepted into Cameron's European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament.[35] The official vote result was not released to the public though figures of 29 votes for, and 26 against were reported by the membership.[35] In July 2014, the following seven representatives of AfD became members of the Committees of the European Parliament:[36]

Hans-Olaf Henkel was appointed as one of four vice-chairmen on the Industry, Research and Energy committee, while Beatrix von Storch was not elected as a vice-chair for the committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality.[37] and Lucke, who had been nominated by the ECR group as vice chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs committee,[38] failed to win in a secret ballot by 30 votes to 21, with six abstentions.[39][40] Such vice-chairmanships are usually apportioned via the D'Hondt method.[41]

2014 state elections[edit]

On 31 August 2014, the AfD scored 9.7% of the vote in the 2014 Saxony state election,[42] winning 14 seats in the Landtag of Saxony.[43] and on 14 September 2014 10.6% of the vote in the 2014 Thuringian state election and 12.2% in the 2014 Brandenburg state election, winning 11 seats in both state parliaments.[44]

2015 state elections[edit]

On 15 February 2015 AfD won 6.1% of the vote in the 2015 Hamburg state election, gaining the mandate for 8 seats in the Hamburg Parliament.[45]

On 10 May 2015, the AfD will compete in the Bremen state election, 2015.[46][47]

Political orientation[edit]

The party is most commonly described as Eurosceptic, conservative and liberal, and to be in the conservative/economic liberal spectrum,[48] combining neoliberalism[dubious ] with opposition to European integration.[49] The party is considered to occupy policy space vacated by the CDU/CSU on the political right.[50] It is seen as offering a home to socially conservative voters, disenfranchised with Chancellor Merkel's shift of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in areas of social policy such as same sex marriage.[51]

The party claims to be against the Euro currency but not the European Union[52][53] and that it is neither nationalist nor anti-immigration.[54] The party was unable to agree to a broad ideological designation at the Erfurt convention in March 2014.[55] A quantitative content analysis of the party's manifesto for the 2014 European Parliamentary Election shows that the party occupies a space between the FDP and the NPD and is virtually on par with the CSU [56] At the outset the party presented itself as conservative and middle-class,[57] catering to a well-educated demographic as more than two-thirds of its initial supporters held doctorates.[58] More recently, "numerous reports have labelled AfD as a racist, religious fundamentalist and even right-wing populist party", according to the Spiegel[59]

The AfD has been compared to the Norwegian Progress Party (FrP) as a political amalgamation of conservatives and economic liberals.[60] Since its inception it has been noted for lacking the charismatic leadership seen in other Eurosceptic parties—such as Jörg Haider of the Freedom Party of Austria, or Italian Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement.[61]


The party's 2013 election program was "three and a half pages long full of assertions on (1) currency policy, (2) European policy, (3) the rule of law and democracy (4) public finance and taxes, (5) pensions, (6) energy policy and (7) integration policy".[62] Currency policy has been central and specific policy goals have included:

  • The no-bailout clause of the Maastricht Treaty must be respected, i.e. "Germany’s veto of future ESM loans in order to achieve a change of the European Treaties that will enable every country to leave the euro".
  • Countries must be able to leave the eurozone to relaunch national currencies, form alternative monetary unions or establish parallel currencies.
  • Secondary market interventions by the European Central Bank should cease immediately.
  • Financial institutions and private big investors should bear bailout costs, not the taxpayer.
  • An orderly dissolution of the euro area, with all transfer of sovereignty to the European Union must be legitimized by referendum.[62]

The AfD opines that the Euro is a failed currency that threatens European integration by impoverishing countries with less competitive economies and burdening future generations.[9] The AfD supports the abolition of the pan-European Euro currency[63] and re-establishment of the Deutsche Mark.[4][dubious ] which was one of the party's conditions for entering into a governing coalition per Bernd Lucke.[64] As of May 2013 Lucke softened his approach somewhat, saying, "I could imagine cooperating with a centre-right government if this coalition was prepared to accept significantly tougher conditions on aid from the European Stability Mechanism."[65]

AfD is critical of the energy transition in Germany, warning against Chancellor Merkel's decision to close all nuclear plants by 2020 in favour of renewable energy.[66]

AfD's programme calls for Canadian-style immigration policies to entice more skilled foreign workers to Germany.[54]

Its policies toward women were the fight against gender mainstreaming and gender quotas in the work place. Just prior to the EU elections it also vowed to "eliminate existing disadvantages".[59]

Party finances[edit]

Further information: Party finance in Germany

As of 21 April 2013 the AfD had received a total of €580,000 in party donations and membership fees, with the largest single donation of €5000 donated by an unnamed medium-sized company..[67] As of 13 September 2013 the 2013 election campaign fund of the party stood at €2.3 million raised mostly from small donors;[68] and As of 25 September 2013 the party had raised €4.3 million per its treasurer Norbert Stenzel.[69] On the weekend before the election it raised around half a million Euros via an online appeal, mostly made up of small personal donations and only two large donations of just under €50,000.[69]

Because the 2013 federal election was the first fought by the party, the AfD had not received any federal funds in the run-up,[67] but after receiving 2 million votes it jumped the threshold for party funding and was expected to receive an estimated 1.3 to 1.5 million Euro of state subsidies.[70]


Academic opinion

Leading supporters include Charles Blankart (professor of public finance at the Humboldt University of Berlin), Wilhelm Hankel, Stefan Homburg (professor of public finance at the University of Hanover),[15] and Karl Albrecht Schachtschneider many of whom are economists and/or former members of the Christian Democratic Union. Hankel and Schachtschneider have previously challenged the constitutionality of the German government's eurozone policies at the German Constitutional Court.[15][71]

Peter Bofinger, a member of the German Council of Economic Experts, which advises the government, said just after founding of teh AfD: "A parallel currency is the worst conceivable way to solve the euro crisis." Clemens Fuest, head of the Center for European Economic Research (ZEW) sees "considerable disadvantages" in the party policies.[72]

Foreign reaction

Formation of the AfD generated interest both inside Germany and beyond.[20] The U.S. think tank Stratfor saw growing public support for the AfD revealing a developing awareness among German voters of the economic risks related to the eurozone.[73] The American Prospect described the AfD as the German Tea Party movement,[74][75] a comparison the AfD rejects.[76]

European affiliations[edit]

Before the European Parliament election, 2014 Lucke was dismissive about possible cooperation with other eurosceptic parties in Europe, pointing out that while the AfD opposes the euro, it is not against the European Union. Speaking before the election he said "There are no plans to cooperate with these other parties. We are focusing on Germany. We don't necessarily agree with many of these other parties and therefore we will maintain our distance."[65] Lucke stated the party had no concrete plans for alliances with other parties.[30] Lucke and the federal board of AfD opposed Britain's anti-EU party UKIP. [30] Lucke said he was close to the European Conservatives and Reformists group, to which British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives belong, but disagreed with their promise of a Proposed referendum on United Kingdom membership of the European Union.[30]

The AfD has said they had received no contact from Geert Wilders,the Dutch politician of the Party for Freedom with a party spokeswoman stating that the AfD "want nothing to do with people like Wilders".[77]

The Slovakian political party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) lead by Richard Sulík is reported to have close links to the Alternative for Germany.[78] The AfD has been compared to the Norwegian Progress Party, as a political blending of conservatives and economic liberals.[79]

Intra-party tensions over potential European alliances[edit]

The AfD National party leadership were reluctant to be seen associating with other Eurosceptic parties from across the continent, with the AfD repeatedly making it clear that it does not see itself as a sister party to, for example, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), but that it shared more in common with the British Conservatives.[according to whom?][25] AfD leader Bernd Lucke said he declined an approach for a meeting with UKIP leader Nigel Farage in 2013.[65]

In November 2013 the leader of the AfD in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and a party member from North Rhine-Westphalia met with the UKIP leader Nigel Farage in Brussels.[80] Nigel Farage described the meetings as very productive, stating "I am aware that the AfD leader wants to join forces with the Conservative Party but it is pleasing to know that very many senior members of AfD instead wish to enter an alliance with our party".[81] Bernd Lucke had reportedly been criticised by the North-Rhine Westphalia AfD branch as being too EU-friendly, with the meeting with Farage seen in the context of a faction in the AfD who wished to align with UKIP and the Italian Lega Nord in the European group Europe of Freedom and Democracy rather than the links the party leadership were trying to foster with the British Conservatives.[82]

The meeting was contrary to a decision by the AfD Federal Executive, which stated that official contact with foreign parties is decided only by them.[83] The meetings were reported to have created tension between the Federal Executive and the state assemblies in Hesse and North-Rhine Westphalia, which led to media suggestions of a power struggle in the party.[84] This included some reports in the media that some members of the party wanted to replace Bernd Lucke as party leader.[85] These reports were denied by party members, who downplayed the meeting with Farage as undermining the party leadership's favoured alliance with the Conservatives.[85] It was stated that the party had already agreed at a national conference on the future alignment of the party.[85]

Some party members[who?] continue to prefer a potential link-up with UKIP and/or Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV) in the European Parliament.[86] With the independent Junge Alternative going so far as to invite Nigel Farage to address the party's youth organisation in early 2014.[87]

Cooperation with the European Conservatives and Reformists[edit]

Hans-Olaf Henkel, AfD's second candidate on the European election list, ruled out forming a group with UKIP after the 2014 European election.[32] He described UKIP's immigration policies as ridiculous, and stated that he saw the British Conservatives as a preferred partner in the European Parliament.[32] He also saw other potential partners in Europe in Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic.[88]

Some British Conservatives such as Timothy Kirkhope were more reluctant to be seen as too openly courting the AfD, should it damage relations with Angela Merkel's CDU, which they thought could hinder attempts by the Conservative Party to renegotiate treaties before a proposed referendum on British EU membership in 2017.[89][90]

Before the European Election Lucke had been in talks with the Czech and Polish parties of ECR, but acknowledged the concerns the British Conservatives had about the admission of the AfD into the group.[33]

On 12 June 2014 the AfD had been accepted into the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament.[35]

Germany's traditional political parties labelled AfD's platform as populist and nationalist.[63] Other commentators classify the AfD as a protest party.[91][92] Lucke rejects the populist label, describing accusations that he is playing a “populist” card as a smear dreamt up by Left-wing academics.[93]

Public image[edit]

At the outset Afd presented itself as conservative and middle-class,[57] catering to a well-educated demographic as more than two-thirds of its initial supporters held doctorates.[58] giving it the nickname the "professors' party".[94] The party was described as professors and academics who dislike the compromises inflicted on their purist theories by German party politics.[95] and political establishment has dismissed it as a "fear-mongering populist aberration".[54] 86% of the party's initial supporters were male,[23] and the AfD membership is often typified as being older and male.[citation needed]

Political extremes

Alternative for Germany party organisers have been sending out the message that they are not trying to attract right-wing populists or radicals.[57] The AfD check applicants for membership to exclude far-right and former National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) members who support the anti-Euro policy (as other mainstream German political parties do).[57][58][93] The party toned down rhetoric on their Facebook page following media allegations that it too closely evoked the language of the far-right.[57][96] Party chairman Bernd Lucke initially defended the choice of words, citing freedom of opinion, and a right to use "strong words", meanwhile he has also said that "The applause is coming from the wrong side" in regards to praise his party gained from the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD).[57] Outside the Berlin hotel where the party held its inaugural meeting, it has been alleged that copies of Junge Freiheit, a weekly that is popular with the far-right were being handed out.[54] The Rheinische Post pointed out that some AfD members and supporters write for the Junge Freiheit.[74][97] There was also a protest outside the venue of the party’s inaugural meeting by Andreas Storr, an NPD representative in the Landtag of Saxony, as the NPD sees the AfD as a rival for eurosceptic votes.[98]

An investigation conducted by the internet social analytic company Linkfluence showed little to no similarities in Facebook likes of AfD followers and those of the NPD supporter base.[99] AfD members interests tended towards euroscepticism and direct democracy, while NPD supporters showed interests in anti-Islamification, right-wing rock bands and the German military.[99] An evaluation between the hyperlinks included on AFD local party websites also showed few similarities, with the company's German chief-executive stating "The AfD supporter base and the right-wing extremist scene are digitally very far removed from one another"[99] The analysis did point to AfD members favouring links with right-wing populist reactionary conservative content.[99] The AfD's desire to break consensus-based politics and oppose political correctness as undermining freedom of speech, does lend it kudos as a legitimate mouthpiece for right-wing populism among some of the party membership and on regional AfD websites, which contrasts with the intellectual character of the party hierarchy.[99]

Left-wing criticism of the party took a more hardened tone over the late summer 2013,[citation needed] with an array of political activists from far-left anti-fascist anarchists to the mainstream Green Party accusing it of pandering to xenophobic and nationalistic sentiments.[100] This ultimately led to the AfD complaining over incidents of verbal abuse and violence to its campaigners in Berlin, Lubeck, Nuremberg and the university city of Göttingen.[100] Incidents in Göttingen flared after a party conference on 1 August, with police intervening later in the month in an attempted garage arson attack (in which there was said to be a car filled with AfD campaign literature) and to break up a dispute between the AfD and members of the Green Youth.[100] Party leader Bernd Lucke described the events as a "slap in the face for every person who supports democracy" with the party in Lower Saxony left questioning whether to abandon their campaign in the state as local pub and restaurant owners denied the party access to their venues fearing for their businesses.[100]

On 24 August 2013, Lucke and 16 other party members were reported to have been attacked in Bremen by opponents who used pepper spray and pushed Lucke from the stage. Initial reports by party officials and the police suggested that they were left-wing extremists and that about 8 out of 20–25 attackers had succeeded in getting on to the stage. It was reported that a campaign worker had been cut with a knife. Later the police indicated that the number of people was probably around 10, of whom only 2 were known to have gained access to the stage, that only one of the opponents was known to be a left wing activist, and that the minor cut sustained by a campaign worker was probably not caused by a knife and was incurred later when attempting to apprehend a fleeing attacker.[101][102]

Following the German Federal Election 2013 the anti-Islam, German Freedom Party. unilaterally pledged to support Alternative for Germany in the 2014 elections and concentrate its efforts on local elections only.[103] Bernd Lucke responded by saying the recommendation was unwelcome and sent a letter to party associations recommending a hiring freeze.[104] Earlier in September Lucke described Freedom Party members as coming from two camps, one of extreme Islam critics and populists, the other, ordinary democrats who were joining the AfD.[103] Co-operation with the Freedom Party remains controversial within the ranks of the AfD,[104] with some German state associations conducting vetting interviews with former Freedom Party members.[103]


In response to the far-right PEGIDA movement and demonstrations the party has been somewhat incohesive, with Lucke describing the movement as, "a sign that these people do not feel their concerns are understood by politicians."[105] Alexander Gauland stated that the AfD are "natural allies of this movement" in response to the CDU Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere alleging that that there is an "overlap" between PEGIDA rallies and the AfD.[106] Though Hans-Olaf Henkel asked members of the party to not join the demonstrations, stating that he believed he could not rule out that they had "xenophobic or even racist connotations" to Der Tagesspiegel.[105] A straw poll by The Economist found 9 out of 10 PEGIDA protesters would back the AfD.[107]


Afd has been criticized for vagueness regarding its goals, for example not describing how the euro area should be dissolved, and not addressing euro area challenges that an economy with two currencies would bring:capital controls, shadow economy and scarcity of import products in the countries concerned. AfD has not discussed consequences, "such as major distortions in the European single market and potential damage to the real economy in case of a major appreciation in exiting strong countries – such as Germany".[62]

Wolfgang Schaeuble criticized AfD for "unrestrained demagoguery to abuse everything that is capable of being abused".[108]

The "anti-euro professors" were dismissed as "political amateurs" in an opinion piece in the tabloid Bild.[109][110]

Tables of election results[edit]

Federal Parliament (Bundestag)
Election year # of
constituency votes
# of
party list votes
 % of
party list votes
# of
overall seats won
2013 810,915 2,056,985 4.7
0 / 631
European Parliament
Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
2014 2,070,014 7.1 (#5)
7 / 96
State Parliament (Landtag)
State election, year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
Hesse, 2013 126,906 4.1 (#6)
0 / 110
Saxony, 2014 159,611 9.7 (#4)
14 / 126
Thuringia, 2014 99,548 10.6 (#4)
11 / 91
Brandenburg, 2014 119,989 12.2 (#4)
11 / 88
Hamburg, 2015 214,833 6.1 (#6)
8 / 121


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