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
Membership  (2014) 17,522[2]
Ideology Soft euroscepticism
European Parliament group ECR
Colours          Azure, Red
Bundestag
0 / 631
State Parliaments
35 / 1,857
European Parliament
7 / 96
Website
www.alternativefuer.de
Politics of Germany
Political parties
Elections

Alternative for Germany (German: Alternative für Deutschland), abbreviated to AfD, is a German political party founded in 2013. It is considered to be a right-wing conservative party,[3][4] though it describes itself as neither left or right wing.[5] The Party states that it is anti-euro,[6] but not anti-EU.[7] The party's central argument is that the euro is a failed currency that threatens European integration by impoverishing countries with less competitive economies and burdening future generations.[8] The party has since tried to broaden its political message into areas such as policing, immigration and education in the run up to state elections.[9]

Alternative for Germany received 4.7% of the vote in the September 2013 federal election, narrowly failing the 5% threshold for representation.[10] The party won 7 of Germany's 96 seats for the European Parliament in the 2014 European election,[11] and joined the European Conservatives and Reformists group in June 2014. The party exceeded forecasts in gaining its first representation in state parliament elections in Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia during 2014.

Political orientation[edit]

The political orientation of the AfD has been the subject of much debate,[12] with the party itself unable to even agree a broad ideological designation at the Erfurt convention in March 2014.[13] The party is most commonly described with the terms Euro-sceptic, conservative and liberal, but even these appellations often require further qualification to accurately reflect the positions the party occupies.[citation needed] Another factor in accurately identifying the overall party philosophy are the sometimes ideologically contradictory factions which are woven into the party corpus which make it difficult to place the party on the traditional 'left/right' axis.[12]

Policy[edit]

The party's election platform contains broad goals on currency policy, European policy, the rule of law and democracy, public finance and taxes, pensions, energy policy, and immigration policy.[14]

The section on currency policy provides the main part of the program. With regard to other policy fields, the party's main themes are to return some responsibilities back to national governments from the European level, to introduce elements of direct democracy, and to strengthen elements of ownership and self responsibility.

Specific goals include:

  • The no-bailout clause of the Maastricht Treaty must be respected.
  • Countries must be able to leave the eurozone to form alternative monetary unions or establish parallel currencies.
  • Secondary market interventions by the European Central Bank should stop.
  • The cost of bailouts should be borne primarily by the private sector.
  • All transfer of sovereignty to the European Union must be legitimized by referendum.[15]

Party spokesman Bernd Lucke has stated that "Our condition for a coalition would be that our governing partner also wants to abolish the euro."[16] In May 2013 Bernd Lucke had changed his approach somewhat, saying, "I could imagine cooperating with a center-right government if this coalition was prepared to accept significantly tougher conditions on aid from the European Stability Mechanism."[17]

Foreign policy[edit]

European Union[edit]

Before the German parliamentary election in 2013 the deputy national spokesman Alexander Gauland released a foreign policy concept paper,[18] which was not incorporated in the AfD's electoral program. In the paper he called for an orderly dissolution of the existing Euro area, retention of the single market, with friendly and reliable cooperation among European nations and the USA and Canada.[19]

In the paper Gauland stated the party's position should be against all attempts by the European Commission to gain powers without legal basis, which he feels erodes the sovereignty of nation states.[19] He advocated the adoption of policy that the EU should not position itself as a world power, and should refrain from creating such a relationship with the USA, Russia and China.[19]

In the concept paper he stated that EU enlargement has reached its limits and has been overstretched, and that the AfD should be against any further expansion of the EU into the Balkan states, saying the potential for integration is already exhausted until further notice.[19] On the EU membership of Turkey Gauland issued a clear rejection: "According to the AfD, Europe ends at the Bosporus...with the inclusion of Turkey, Western Europe would lose its identity".[19] The party believes that delayed negotiations (and accession chapters which are blocked by member states), create distrust of the EU in Turkey, with Gauland calling for honesty in denying Turkey membership.[20] On further enlargement of the EU, Bernd Lucke stated that he saw the accession of the Republic of Macedonia as unlikely during sitting of the 2014-2019 European Parliament, stating that they must prepare well before joining.[21]

Development cooperation policy[edit]

As of June 2014 the AfD had not yet adopted a full suite of policy on the area of foreign development, with Hans-Olaf Henkel stating that other policy areas had until now taken priority among the party.[22] He said the party hopes to expand on the brief section on the issue in their manifesto in the coming months.[22] In an interview with EurActive he spoke of a "sympathetic triangle" made up of human rights, democracy and market economy.[22] VENRO, the German development umbrella organisation declined to comment on Hans-Olaf Henkel's expansion on the official AfD policy,[22] though the German Foundation for World Population criticised his positions as representing a "completely outdated picture".[22]

Energy policy[edit]

AfD is critical of the energy transition in Germany, warning against Chancellor Merkel's decision to close all nuclear plants by 2020 in favor of renewable energy. The party fears this policy will drive up energy prices, endangering industrial production and German jobs.[23]

Social policy[edit]

The party is seen as offering a home to socially conservative voters who have been disenfranchised as Chancellor Merkel has allegedly shifted the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to the left in areas of social policy such as same sex marriage.[24] Some members of the AfD have been critical of same sex marriage, particularly Beatrix von Storch, an AfD candidate in Berlin.[25] Co-founder of the party Konrad Adam has stated that the party does not yet have an official position on the matter.[24]

In contrast with other anti-euro movements in Europe, the AfD claims that it is neither nationalist nor anti-immigration. Its program calls for Canadian-style policies to entice more skilled foreign workers to Germany.[26]

In response to the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident (PEGIDA) movement and demonstrations the party has been somewhat incohesive, with de-facto party leader Bernd Lucke describing the movement as, "a sign that these people do not feel their concerns are understood by politicians."[27] 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.[28] 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.[27]

Reception[edit]

Academic opinion on AfD party policy[edit]

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),[29] 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.[29][30]

Peter Bofinger, a member of the German Council of Economic Experts, which advises the government, said: "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.[31]

Foreign reaction[edit]

The formation of AfD has generated much interest both inside Germany and beyond.[32] The U.S. think tank Stratfor sees growing public support for the AfD that "reveals a developing awareness among German voters of economic risks related to the eurozone. Although it is unlikely to challenge mainstream parties in September elections, support for this new group could prompt those parties to adopt a Eurosceptical stance, a phenomenon that is already occurring in other European countries."[33] American media have described the AfD as the German Tea Party movement,[34][35] a comparison the AfD rejects.[36]

European affiliation[edit]

Party leader Bernd Lucke was dismissive about possible cooperation with other eurosceptic parties in Europe before EU-wide European Parliament elections in 2014, pointing out that while the AfD opposes the euro, it is not against the European Union. 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."[17] As the AfD's lead candidate for the European vote, Lucke stated the party had no concrete plans for alliances with other parties.[37] AfD officials said they had discussed alliances with Britain's anti-EU party UKIP, which Bernd Lucke and the federal board of AfD opposed, and with the European Conservatives and Reformists group, to which British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives belong.[37] He said he was close to the Conservatives but disagreed with their promise of a Proposed referendum on United Kingdom membership of the European Union.[37]

Before the European election the Dutch politician of the Party for Freedom, Geert Wilders, had announced the intention to form a eurosceptic alliance ahead of the 2014 European Parliament elections, holding talks with the French National Front, Vlaams Belang, Lega Nord and the Swedish Democrats. UKIP rejected such an alliance, with EurActive speculating about the possibility that Wilders had also sought support from the AfD.[38] The AfD said they had received no contact from Mr Wilders, with a party spokeswoman stating that the AfD "want nothing to do with people like Wilders".[39]

Slovakia's Freedom and Solidarity party represented by Richard Sulík is reported to have close links to the Alternative for Germany.[40] The AfD has also been compared to the Norwegian Progress Party by Jan Simonsen, as a blending of conservatives and economic liberals.[41]

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.[42] Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP described the Alternative for Germany as "a bit academic, but very interesting" in May 2013.[43] Party leader Bernd Lucke said he declined an approach for a meeting with Nigel Farage in 2013.[17]

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.[44] 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".[45] 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.[46]

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.[47] The meetings were reported to have created some 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.[48] This included some reports in the media that some members of the party wanted to replace Bernd Lucke as party leader.[49] These reports were denied by party members, who downplayed the meeting with Farage as undermining the party leadership's favoured alliance with the Conservatives.[49] It was stated that the party had already agreed at a national conference on the future alignment of the party.[49]

Some party members continue to prefer a potential link-up with UKIP and/or Geert Wilders PVV party in the European Parliament.[50] With the independent Junge Alternative going so far as to invite Nigel Farage to address the party's youth organisation in early 2014.[51]

In May 2014 UKIP leader Nigel Farage, told Reuters in an interview that the AfD needed "to get real... they have got something that could catch fire, but they don't know how to market it. Academics will never understand that."[37]

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.[52] He described UKIP's immigration policies as ridiculous, and stated that he saw the British Conservatives as a preferred partner in the European Parliament.[52] He also saw other potential partners in Europe in Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic.[53]

During David Cameron's prime ministerial visit to Germany in April 2013, the British Conservative Party is reported to have contacted both Alternative for Germany and the Free Voters to discuss the possibility of cooperation, which was supported by the European Conservatives and Reformists group of the European Parliament.[54]

In June 2013, Bernd Lucke gave a well attended question and answer session organised by the Conservative allied Bruges Group think tank in Portcullis House, London.[32][55]

ConservativeHome, a British political website, viewed the AfD's policies as, "wholly unremarkable," in response to the AfD's more cautious reception among the German public. The website also voiced the opinion that the party shouldn't be compared to the UK Independence Party which calls for a British exit from the EU. According to the conservative grassroots site the AfD's policies are much closer to those of the British Conservatives, who also reject the euro and wish to implement reform of the EU.[56][57]

The Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan was speculated to have been advocating for the British Conservatives and AfD to link following the 2014 EU elections via the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists with possible membership in the EU parliament grouping European Conservatives and Reformists, which was formed after the Conservatives withdrew from the European Democrats sub group of the European People's Party, to which Angela Merkel's CDU belong.[58]

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 speculated could hinder attempts by the Conservative Party to renegotiate treaties before a proposed referendum on British EU membership in 2017.[58][59] Hans-Olaf Henkel stated that the AfD had heard rumours that Angela Merkel had told David Cameron to keep his distance from the party during the run-up to the 2014 European Election.[52]

Response from the political journalist Andrew Gimson writing at ConservativeHome was broadly positive about the possibility of the Conservatives working with AfD.[60] Paul Goodman, editor of ConservativeHome has also been welcoming towards cooperation with AfD, playing down the risks that cooperation would affect the relationship between David Cameron and Angela Merkel.[61]

Before the European Election Bernd 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.[62]

Acceptance into the European Conservatives and Reformists[edit]

On 12 June 2014 It was announced that the AfD had been accepted into the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament.[63] The official vote result was not released to the public though figures of 29 votes for, and 26 against were reported from the membership.[63] It was claimed that two Conservative members voted for the AfD's admission to the group, against the wishes of David Cameron, with the Conservative party hierarchy in London reiterating that it views the CDU/CSU as their "sister party" in Germany.[63]

Public image[edit]

The party presents itself as conservative and middle-class.[64] More than two-thirds of its initial supporters hold doctorates,[65] 86% of whom are male,[66] giving it the nickname the "professors' party".[67] But these "anti-euro professors" were dismissed as "political amateurs" in an opinion piece in the high-circulation tabloid Bild.[68][69] During the inaugural party meeting, a speech by party founder Bernd Lucke was interrupted at one point by a man waving a German flag, and delegates interjected repeatedly to remind AfD leaders gathered on the stage about proper protocol as motions were voted on.[26] The party has also been described as professors and academics who dislike the compromises inflicted on their purist theories by German party politics.[70]

Germany's traditional political parties have labelled AfD's platform as populist and nationalist.[71] Other commentators have rejected such terms, but do classify the AfD as a protest party.[72][73] The Party chairman, Bernd Lucke rejects the populist label, describing accusations that he is playing a “populist” card as a smear dreamt up by Left-wing academics.[74] An article in Der Spiegel which featured a debate between Bernd Lucke and Sahra Wagenknecht the deputy head of the Left party, has been criticised in some quarters, for the posed photography of the party leader with a politician with whom his party has little in common.[75]

Alternative for Germany have been criticised in some circles 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.[75]—though the party has stressed that it does not seek to emulate other populist eurosceptic parties in Europe.

AfD and political extremes[edit]

Alternative for Germany party organisers have been sending out the message that they are not trying to attract right-wing populists or radicals.[64] 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).[64][65][74] The party toned down rhetoric on their Facebook page following media allegations that it too closely evoked the language of the far-right.[64][76] 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).[64] 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.[26] The Rheinische Post pointed out that some AfD members and supporters write for the Junge Freiheit.[34][77] 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.[78]

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.[79] 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.[79] 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"[79] The analysis did point to AfD members favouring links with right-wing populist reactionary conservative content.[79] 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.[79]

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.[5] 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.[5] 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.[5] 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.[5]

On 24 August 2013, Bernd 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 also reported that a campaign worker had been cut with a knife. Later corrections by 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.[80][81]

Organisation[edit]

Party structure[edit]

The federal board was established on 14 April 2013 and chose three principal speakers: Konrad Adam, Bernd Lucke and Frauke Petry. The principal speakers are comparable to the leaders of other parties. Three deputy speakers, Alexander Gauland, Roland Klaus and Patricia Casale, were also chosen. 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. The AFD has national affiliates in all 16 German states, which were founded between 31 March 2013 and 12 May 2013.

Finances[edit]

Further information: Party finance in Germany

The AfD claimed to have received in party donations and membership fees a total of €580,000 up to 21 April 2013.[82] Of this, the largest single donation was 5000 euros donated by an unnamed medium-sized company, with large companies seemingly reluctant to donate to the party.[82]

The 2013 election campaign fund of the party stood at €2.3 million on 13 September 2013.;[83] this was raised mostly from small donors according to their own information. In September party treasurer Norbert Stenzel stated the party had raised €4.3 million since its foundation.[84] The party raised around half a million euros on the weekend before the election via an online appeal, again mostly made up of small personal donations.[84] The party said it had received only two large donations of just under €50,000 at this point.[84]

As the 2013 Federal election was the first fought by the party, the AfD did not receive any state party funds in the run-up to the election.[82] Following the elections the party will get an estimated 1.3 to 1.5 million Euro of state subsidies as they exceeded the electoral threshold for party funding.[85][clarification needed]

Junge Alternative youth organisation[edit]

The Junge Alternative für Deutschland, JA (Young Alternative for Germany) was founded on 15 June 2013 in Darmstadt. The JA is open to people aged 14 to 35 years, and sees itself as a youth organisation of the AfD but is legally and organisationally an independent body from the AfD party.[86]

In view of the JA's independence it has been regarded by the AfD hierarchy as being somewhat wayward.[87] With the JA repeatedly accused of being "too far right,"[47] politically regressive and anti-feminist among the German media.[87]

  • In late March 2014, The Junge Alternative hosted Nigel Farage who had been invited to address the party's North Rhine-Westphalia organisation in Cologne.[51] The invitation is alleged to have caused some trouble within the AfD itself over the youth wing’s unauthorized invitation of Farage, with the regional association and the youth wing wanting to stress their independence.[88] The invitation was contrary to a decision of the AfD National Executive whose policy is that official contact with foreign parties is decided only by the federal executive.[47] Nigel Farage's presence apparently led to a deterioration in relations with Bernd Lucke, the AfD leader, who called the move a "sign of poor political tact."[87] The Nigel Farage event received largely negative headlines in the German media.[87]
  • The JA launched an anti-feminist campaign entitled "Gleichberechtigung statt gleichmacherei" (variously translated as "equal rights, not levelling down" or "equality instead of uniformity") on Facebook in response to the young Social Democrats, who posted photos supportive of feminism to mark International Women's Day. The Facebook page of JA describes feminism as a "left-wing" ideology, and asks people to post reasons to reject it.[89] With the JA also citing opposition to gender quota proposals in Germany for women as a motivation.[90] The campaign was described in less than flattering terms by the Rheinische Post.[91][92] Sections of the German media also labelled election campaign material of the JA which showed women in swimwear under the slogan "equality instead of uniformity" as sexist and in bad taste.[87] The JA followed with a poster of four shirtless men under the slogan "end soft justice".[87]
  • In May 2014 The JA is said to have further irritated AfD bosses with a statement they released on Facebook advocating vigilante action against crime.[93]

History[edit]

Founding[edit]

Logo of "Wahlalternative 2013"

In September 2012, Alexander Gauland, Bernd Lucke, Konrad Adam and Gerd Robanus founded the political group Wahlalternative 2013 (translated: "Electoral Alternative 2013") with the aim of opposing the German government's policies for dealing with the eurozone crisis. Their manifesto was endorsed by a number of prominent economists, journalists, and business leaders.[94] The group argued that the eurozone had proven to be "unsuitable" and that southern European states were "sinking into poverty under the competitive pressure of the euro".[8]

Some of the present members of the AfD sought election in Lower Saxony as Wahlalternative 2013 in an alliance with the Free Voters party, and received 1% of the vote.[95] After this short and unsuccessful alliance with the Free Voters,[8] an association of persons who participate in local elections without a specific policy on federal or foreign affairs, the group decided in February 2013 to found a new party to compete in the federal elections of 2013. A leaked email from Bernd Lucke revealed that the leadership of the Free Voters (a political movement active primarily in Bavaria which secured 10% of the vote in the last local elections) declined to join forces with Alternative for Germany.[96] The Alternative for Germany group took a more radical stance on the euro than the Free Voters, advocating the total abolition of the euro. (Some of the Free Voters wish to expel troubled southern countries temporarily from the euro, until they "recover").[97] In July, while in London, Lucke said the party's "prime goal was to expel the heavily indebted Southern European countries".[98]

Bernd Lucke also approached the head of Pirate Party Germany to discuss forming an anti-eurozone political alliance, but nothing came of it.[42]

In 14 April 2013, the party announced its existence to the public when it held its first convention in Berlin. The convention elected the party leadership and adopted the party platform. The three elected speakers are former World Bank economist Bernd Lucke,[98] entrepreneur Frauke Petry, and publicist Konrad Adam (a former editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from 1979 to 2000 and chief correspondent of Die Welt until 2008).[99]

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

2013 Federal Election campaign[edit]

Political reactions to the formation of the AfD[edit]

Following the party foundation, mainstream politicians were initially reluctant to comment on the AfD in the run-up to the federal election of 2013.[100] German Chancellor Angela Merkel maintained a particular silence on the party, despite some CDU members disagreeing with this approach.[100] Wolfgang Bosbach, the CDU chair of the Internal Affairs Committee in the German parliament, called on the government to confront critics of the Euro "with well founded arguments."[100] This followed an article in Der Spiegel which included extracts from a paper by CDU leaders from three German states protesting against the party's strategy in dealing with the AfD.[100] The authors of the paper urged the CDU to "take the new party seriously" and to engage it in a debate on the issues,[100] which earned them a private reprimand from Merkel at a CDU national executive meeting.[101]

In May 2013, Chancellor Merkel sidestepped questions about the AfD during a call-in session with CDU voters and in an interview with Der Spiegel.[101] She said "We have to stand up for a strong euro, while making demands" in response to a caller's question about how she intended to confront Alternative for Germany.[102]

In a detailed report in the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in April 2013, the paper's Berlin-based political correspondent Majid Sattar revealed that the SPD and CDU had conducted opposition research to blunt the growth and attraction of the AfD.[34][103] Meanwhile, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (a think tank affiliated with Merkel's CDU party) issued a report arguing that the AfD should be taken seriously but should not be "upgraded through ongoing public debates".[34]

FDP leader Philipp Rösler, the former economy minister in Merkel's coalition 2009-2013, told Bild that the AfD was bad news for Germany and he ruled out any deal with it in the run-up to the 2013 Federal Election, saying "The consequences of going back to the Deutsche Mark would be disastrous. Experts say such a step would cause chaos in the economy and drive up unemployment sharply...It is precisely Germany that benefits immensely from our common currency."[104] AfD's policy of leaving the Eurozone was criticised by a Deputy Finance Minister in the Christian Democrats who claimed, "The new party is deluding voters that it's possible to renationalise the common currency without drawbacks".[65][105]

Eurosceptics in CDU/CSU and FDP[edit]

Eurosceptic members of the mainstream parties sought to gain support among their colleagues, rather than join the AfD, with Wolfgang Bosbach, Klaus-Peter Willsch and Peter Gauweiler from the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) among the most eurosceptc voices. Wolfgang Bosbach, found himself ostracised within the CDU for refusing to back eurozone bailouts, but ruled out defecting to the AfD, saying that voters switching to the AfD have the potential to hurt the CDU.[26]

Frank Schäffler of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) fought to build a majority within the party against what he deemed bad government policy, encouraging voters to "join the FDP and change the majority there", after a vote against the European Stability Mechanism was only 2,000 short of changing the party majority.[106] The AfD gained their first representation in the state parliament of Hesse with the defection of Jochen Paulus from the FDP in early May 2013,[66] though he was not re-elected in September elections and left office in January 2014.[citation needed] The FDP adopted a euro-friendly position in its 2014 EU election campaign launch, with the lead candidate differentiating himself from the AfD and eurosceptics within the FDP.[107] The new FDP leader Christian Lindner described AfD as a "Backwards moving group".[107]

Other parties[edit]

In the run up to the 2013 Federal Election Caren Lay, a representative of the The Left, told L'Humanité that she did not think the AfD would enter parliament.[108] The Free Voters party say they do not feel threatened by the AfD, with their party leader Hubert Aiwanger telling the Stuttgarter Zeitung "The more forces who join in on this topic [the euro], the more exciting the discussion will be."[97] At their spring convention the Pirate Party of Germany issued a declaration opposing any coalition with Alternative for Germany.[109]

Alliance '90/The Greens former parliamentary chief Jürgen Trittin said the AfD were seeking "a return to a traditional-style nation-state" and supporting currency policies that would hurt Germany's export-dependent economy. He told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that "They are advocating something that I consider to be unfounded, dangerous and illusionary", before going on to say "The Alternative for Germany has a program for destroying jobs in the German export industry."[16]

In January 2014 The SPD Vice Chancellor of Germany Sigmar Gabriel said "Let's stand up against these stupid slogans about Germany being 'the paymaster of Europe'... We're going to defend Europe against the smart-alec professors, the former lobbyists or the left-wing radicals" in relation to the AfD and The Left in the forthcoming European Elections.[110]

Following the German Federal Election 2013 the anti-Islam party, German Freedom Party. unilaterally pledged to support Alternative for Germany in the 2014 elections and concentrate its efforts on local elections only.[111] Bernd Lucke responded by saying the recommendation was unwelcome and sent a letter to party associations recommending a hiring freeze.[112] 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.[111] Co-operation with the Freedom Party remains controversial within the ranks of the AfD.[112] With some German state associations conducting vetting interviews with former Freedom Party members.[111]

Federal Election Polling[edit]

TNS Emnid polling group released the results of a one-question survey that suggests there could be support for an anti-euro party in early March. In a poll on behalf of the weekly news magazine Focus that did not specifically mention the Alternative for Germany, about 26% said they could imagine voting for an anti-euro party.[113]

Opinion polling conducted in April by Infratest dimap, asked "Can you imagine voting for a euro-critical party like the Alternative for Germany in the national elections?"[114] 24% of respondents said they might do so. The results of the poll were as follows: 7% yes, definitely; 17% yes, perhaps; 15% probably not; 59% definitely not.[115] This poll found possible support for a euro-critical party to be in Eastern Germany (27%), with women (27%), the less educated (33%), and the young (36%).[115] The poll found that the potential vote for a euro-critical party would draw support from across the political spectrum: Die Linke (29%), SPD (21%), Greens (14%), CDU/CSU (19%), with voters of small parties (46%), non-voters (31%), and the undecided (32%).[115] The poll had a margin of error of 1.4%–3.1%.[116]

A May 2013 opinion poll asked how people would vote if the elections were next Sunday, the Alternative for Germany party was listed and scored between 2 and 3.5% of the votes.[117]

These potential vote figures for a euro-critical party have been compared with those the Pirate Party Germany reached in 2012 (when they were occasionally reaching 30% in opinion polling while at the height of media attention) whose opinion poll levels have subsequently fallen to much lower levels.[73][118]

Party spokesman Bernd Lucke told the mass-circulation Bild newspaper that a "double digit result was realistic" in September's general elections.[16] Some analysts and Wolfgang Bosbach did not share this view, stating that they doubted the party would overcome the 5% barrier to enter the German Parliament.[16][26][119] Lucke stated that the key would be attracting lower educated blue collar workers.[32]

The AfD saw their polls remaining around the 3% level for most of the summer. The election betting platform Prognosys had the AfD reaching 6% on 14 August, which led BHF Bank analysts to suggest that poll participants may not be willing to admit their support for the party amid the party’s negative reputation among some Germans.[120] This was contested by Oskar Niedermayer, a political science professor at the Free University of Berlin who thought the polling levels were broadly accurate.[120]

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

2013 German Federal Election result[edit]

Further information: German federal election, 2013

The Alternative for Germany secured 2,052,372 party list votes in the 2013 Federal election, which at 4.7% of the vote failed to overcome the 5% barrier to enter the Bundestag. The party also won 809,817 constituency votes, which was 1.9% of the total of these votes cast across Germany.

Many analysts had predicted that the outlook for the AfD in the 2013 German federal election was not good. To many Germans Angela Merkel has represented stability during the Euro-crisis. German citizens had faired relatively well through the crisis, with few worries about their jobs and pensions.[75][121] With the German electorate fearing the instability single-issue parties represent.[75] The German political establishment managed to stifle debate on the Euro through most of the 2013 election campaign,[75] Until the issue of eurozone crisis emerged after the CDU German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble admitted during an election event on 20 August that Greece would need another (third) rescue package in 2014.[122] In this climate the AfD were seen as overestimating potential support from disaffected conservative voters.[75] Manfred Güllner, head of the Forsa Institute polling group said German voters wanted parties that are competent on a range of issues,[75] Comparing the AfD to the Pro DM (Deutsche Mark) party, founded in 1998 (which fought the introduction of the Euro) but never gained much nationwide popular support.[75]

The President of Germany Joachim Gauck expressed his relief that the AfD did not enter the Bundestag following the 2013 election, describing the party as populists. As the German President is expected to be a politically neutral position this statement was challenged by the AfD, who viewed the sentiments as a breach of his legal duties.[123] The former president Roman Herzog took a more conciliatory tone, telling Handelsblatt to take the AfD seriously "as it says many things many fellow citizens think".[124]

2014 European Parliament Election[edit]

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

The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany ruled the proposed 3% vote hurdle for representation in the European Elections unconstitutional in early 2014, and the 2014 European Parliament election was the first run without a barrier for representation.[125] 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"),[126] 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.[127]

The conference elected only the top six candidates for the European Elections on 26 January before the meeting ran out of time. The party convened for a second meeting the following weekend to choose the remaining euro candidates.[126][127][128] Candidates from 7-28 place were chosen in Berlin on 1 February.[129]

State elections[edit]

The AfD did not participate in the 2013 Bavaria state election.

Hesse 2013[edit]

The 2013 Hesse state election was held on the same day as the 2013 federal election; the AfD failed to gain representation in the parliament with 4.04% of the vote.

Eastern states 2014[edit]

The party scored 9.7% of the vote in the 2014 Saxony state election[131] which would give the party 14 seats in the state legislature.[132] Two weeks later the party polled 10.6% in the 2014 Thuringian state election and 12.2% in the 2014 Brandenburg state election, winning 11 seats in both parliaments.[133] The results in these state elections were all higher than polls had been predicting.

Future elections[edit]

The party intends to seek representation among the state parliaments of Germany, with the ultimate aim of making it into the Bundestag in 2017.[126] A Forsa poll conducted in June 2014 for Stern found that 33% of Germans wanted AfD to be represented in the Bundestag compared to 51% who said they would not like to see AfD represented there.[134] An Emnid poll in September 2014 found 22% of Germans could imagine voting for the AfD in 2017.[135]

In 2015 AfD will seek representation in the western states of Hamburg and Bremen.[136][137]

European Parliament[edit]

The seven representatives of AfD became members of the following Committees of the European Parliament:[138]

subcommittee on (Human Rights)

The AfD leader Bernd Lucke was nominated by the ECR as vice chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs committee.[139] Such vice-chairmanships are usually apportioned via the D'Hondt method.[140] In a secret ballot following the selection of vice chairs for the EPP and S&D groups Bernd Lucke was rejected in vote to be vice-chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs committee. MEPs rejected his nomination by 30 votes to 21, with six abstentions.[141][142] Hans-Olaf Henkel was successful in being 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.[143]

Election results[edit]

Federal Parliament (Bundestag)[edit]

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[edit]

Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/–
2014 2,070,014 7.1 (#5)
7 / 96

State Parliament (Landtag)[edit]

State election, year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/–
Hesse, 2013 126,906 4.1
0 / 110
Saxony, 2014 159,611 9.7 (#4)
14 / 126
Thuringian, 2014 99,548 10.6 (#4)
11 / 91
Brandenburg, 2014 119,989 12.2 (#4)
11 / 88

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]