Alternative for Germany
|Alternative for Germany
Alternative für Deutschland
|Founded||6 February 2013|
|Membership||17,522 (on 28 February 2014)|
|Politics of Germany
Alternative for Germany (German: Alternative für Deutschland), abbreviated to AfD, is a German political party founded in 2013. It describes itself as centrist, and states that it is anti-euro, but not anti-EU, and not against European unity. The party's central argument is that the euro is a failed currency that threatens European integration by impoverishing countries with uncompetitive economies and burdening future generations. Alternative for Germany achieved 4.7 percent of the vote in the September 2013 election for the Bundestag, Germany's federal parliament but has no seats.
- 1 Policy
- 2 Reception
- 3 Public image
- 4 Organisation
- 5 History
- 6 Further reading
- 7 References
- 8 External links
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. 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.
Party spokesman Bernd Lucke has stated that "Our condition for a coalition would be that our governing partner also wants to abolish the euro." In May 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."
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.
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. Some members of the AfD have been critical of same sex marriage, particularly Beatrix von Storch, an AfD candidate in Berlin. Co-founder of the party Konrad Adam has stated that the party does not yet have an official position on the matter.
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.
Academic opinion on AfD party policy
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), 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.
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.
Political reactions to the AfD
Following the party foundation, mainstream politicians were initially reluctant to comment on the AfD in the run-up to the federal election of 2013. German Chancellor Angela Merkel maintained a particular silence on the party, despite some CDU members disagreeing with this approach. 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." 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. The authors of the paper urged the CDU to "take the new party seriously" and to engage it in a debate on the issues, which earned them a private reprimand from Merkel at a CDU national executive meeting.
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. 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.
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. 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".
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." 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".
Eurosceptics in CDU/CSU and FDP
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.
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. 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, though he was not re-elected in September elections and left office in January 2014. 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. The new FDP leader Christian Lindner described AfD as a "Backwards moving group".
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. 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." At their spring convention the Pirate Party of Germany issued a declaration opposing any coalition with Alternative for Germany.
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."
In January 2014 The SDP 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.
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. Bernd Lucke responded by saying the recommendation was unwelcome and sent a letter to party associations recommending a hiring freeze. 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. Co-operation with the Freedom Party remains controversial within the ranks of the AfD. With some German state associations conducting vetting interviews with former Freedom Party members.
The formation of AfD has generated much interest both inside Germany and beyond. 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." American media have described the AfD as the German Tea Party movement.
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. AfD has made it clear that it does not see itself as a sister party to, for example, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), but that it shares more in common with the British Conservatives. Party leader Bernd Lucke said he declined an approach for a meeting with UKIP. Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, has described Alternative for Germany as "a bit academic, but very interesting." In an event organised by the conservative allied Bruges Group think tank in Portcullis House in June 2013, Bernd Lucke gave a well attended question and answer session.
Party leader Bernd Lucke has been 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."
It has been reported that the Dutch politician of the Party for Freedom, Geert Wilders, has attempted 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 has rejected such an alliance, with EurActive speculating about the possibility that Wilders had also sought support from the AfD. 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".
The party presents itself as moderate, academic and middle class, catering to a well-educated, gentrified demographic. More than two-thirds of its initial supporters hold doctorates, 86% of whom are male, giving it the nickname the "professors' party". But these "anti-euro professors" were dismissed as "political amateurs" in an opinion piece in the high-circulation tabloid Bild. 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. The party has also been described as professors and academics who dislike the compromises inflicted on their purist theories by German party politics.
Germany's traditional political parties have labelled AfD's platform as populist and nationalist. Other commentators have rejected such terms, but do classify the AfD as a protest party. 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. 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.
Alternative für Deutschland 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. Though the party has stressed that it does not seek to emulate other populist eurosceptic parties in Europe.
AfD and 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. 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). The party toned down rhetoric on their Facebook page following media allegations that it too closely evoked the language of the far-right. 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). 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. The Rheinische Post pointed out that some AfD members and supporters write for the Junge Freiheit. 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.
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. 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. 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" The analysis did point to AfD members favouring links with right-wing populist reactionary conservative content. 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.
Left-wing criticism of the party took a more hardened tone over the late summer, 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. 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. 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. 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. On 24 August 2013, Bernd Lucke and 16 other party members were 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.
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.
The Young Alternative for Germany (Junge Alternative für Deutschland, JA) was founded on 15 June 2013 in Darmstadt. The Federal President is the 30-year-old Würzburg historian Torsten Heinrich. The JA is open to people aged 14 to 35 years. The first objectives are the development of a program and the initiation of university groups and the establishment of a Youth Alternatives Academy (JAA) for the training of young people.
The AFD claimed to have received in party donations and membership fees a total of €580,000 up to 21 April 2013. 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.
The 2013 election campaign fund of the party stood at €2.3 million on 13 September 2013.; 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. 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. The party said it had received only two large donations of just under €50,000 at this point.
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. 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.[clarification needed]
In September 2012, Alexander Gauland, Bernd Lucke, Konrad Adam and Gerd Robanus founded the political group Wahlalternative 2013 (translated: "Election 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. 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".
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. After this short and unsuccessful alliance with the Free Voters, 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. 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"). In July, while in London, Lucke said the party's "prime goal was to expel the heavily indebted Southern European countries".
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, 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).
2013 Federal Election campaign
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.
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?" 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. 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%). 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%). The poll had a margin of error of 1.4%–3.1%.
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.
Party spokesman Bernd Lucke told the mass-circulation Bild newspaper that a "double digit result was realistic" in September's general elections. 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. Lucke stated that the key would be attracting lower educated blue collar workers.
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. This was contested by Oskar Niedermayer, a political science professor at the Free University of Berlin who thought the polling levels were broadly accurate.
2013 German Federal Election result
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. With the German electorate fearing the instability single-issue parties represent. The German political establishment managed to stifle debate on the Euro through most of the 2013 election campaign, 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. In this climate the AfD were seen as overestimating potential support from disaffected conservative voters. Manfred Güllner, head of the Forsa Institute polling group said German voters wanted parties that are competent on a range of issues, 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.
2014 European Parliament Election
There is no barrier for representation in the 2014 European Parliament election. AfD held a party conference on 25 January 2014 at Frankenstolz Arena, Aschaffenburg northwest Bavaria. The conference chose the slogan Mut zu Deutschland ("Boldly for Germany") to replace the former slogan Mut zur Wahrheit ("Boldly for the Truth"), 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.
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. Candidates from 7-28 place were chosen in Berlin on 1 February.
- 1. Bernd Lucke, elected as lead candidate.
- 2. Hans-Olaf Henkel, former president of BDI (Federation of German Industry) 1995-2000.
- 3. Bernd Kölmel, AfD state chairman Baden-Württemberg
- 4. Beatrix von Storch, née Duchess of Oldenburg, a distant relative of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
- 5. Joachim Starbatty, economics professor and author of Crime Scene Euro.
- 6. Ulrike Trebesius, AfD lead candidate in Schleswig-Holstein 2013
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- Official website of the political party "Alternative for Germany" (de)