Alternative for Germany

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Alternative for Germany
Alternative für Deutschland
Abbreviation AfD
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
Conservatism
Economic liberalism
Political position Right-wing[3]
International affiliation None
European affiliation None
European Parliament group European Conservatives and Reformists
Colours          Azure, Red
Bundestag
0 / 631
State Parliaments
48 / 1,857
European Parliament
7 / 96
Website
www.alternativefuer.de
Politics of Germany
Political parties
Elections

Alternative for Germany (German: Alternative für Deutschland, AfD) is considered a Eurosceptic[4][5][6][7] and conservative[8][9] German political party founded in 2013. The party won 4.7% of the vote in the 2013 federal election, narrowly missing the 5% electoral threshold to sit in the Bundestag. The party won 7 out of 96 German seats in the 2014 European election, and subsequently joined the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group. As of 2015 the AfD has gained representation in five German state parliaments.

History[edit]

Founding 2012-2013[edit]

In September 2012, Alexander Gauland, 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 concerning 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.[10] The group stated that the eurozone had proven to be "unsuitable" as a currency area and that southern European states were "sinking into poverty under the competitive pressure of the euro".[11]

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.[11][12] 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, according to a leaked email from Bernd Lucke.[13] Advocating the abolition of the Euro, Alternative for Germany (AfD) took a more radical stance than the Free Voters.[14] Likewise, the Pirate Party of Germany opposed any coalition with the AfD at their 2013 spring convention.[15]

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 journalists who 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.[16][17]

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,[18] entrepreneur Frauke Petry and Konrad Adam were elected as speakers.[19] 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 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.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22][23] 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.[24][25]

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.[26]

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,[27] who was not re-elected and left office in January 2014.[28] 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]

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 in Germany without a barrier for representation.[29]

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"),[30] 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.[31] The conference elected the top six candidates for the European elections on 26 January 2014 and met again the following weekend to choose the remaining euro candidates.[30][31][32] Candidates from 7th-28th place on the party list were selected in Berlin on 1 February.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35] stating that he saw the British Conservatives as the preferred partner in the European Parliament.[35] On 10 May 2014 Bernd Lucke had been in talks with the Czech and Polish member parties of ECR group.[36]

In the 25 May 2014 European election, the AfD came in fifth place in Germany, with 7.1% of the national vote (2,065,162 votes), and 7 members of the EU parliament.[37] On 12 June 2014 it was announced that the AfD had been accepted into the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament.[38] The official vote result was not released to the public, but figures of 29 votes for and 26 against were reported by the membership.[38]

Hans-Olaf Henkel was appointed as one of four vice-chairmen on the Industry, Research and Energy committee, but Beatrix von Storch was not elected as a vice-chair for the committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality.[39] and Lucke, who had been nominated by the ECR group as vice-chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs committee,[40] was defeated in a secret ballot by 30 votes to 21, with six abstentions.[41][42] Such vice-chairmanships are usually apportioned via the D'Hondt method.[43]

2014 state elections[edit]

On 31 August 2014, the AfD scored 9.7% of the vote in the Saxony state election,[44] winning 14 seats in the Landtag of Saxony.[45] and on 14 September 2014 they obtained 10.6% of the vote in the Thuringian and 12.2% in the Brandenburg state election, winning 11 seats in both state parliaments.[46]

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,[47] winning their first seats in a western German state.

On 10 May, the AfD secured in the 5.5% of the vote in the Bremen state election, 2015 gaining representation in their 5th state parliament on a 50% turnout.[48]

Political orientation[edit]

The party is most commonly described as Eurosceptic, conservative and liberal, and to be in the conservative/economic liberal spectrum,[49] combining neoliberalism[dubious ] with opposition to European integration.[50] The party is considered to occupy policy space vacated by the CDU/CSU on the political right.[3] It is seen as offering a home to socially conservative voters, disenchanted with Chancellor Merkel's alleged shift of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to the left in areas of social policy such as same sex marriage.[51] In some German media the party described as right-wing populist and national conservative.

By mid 2015 the party appears to have become polarised into two factions, one centred around Bernd Lucke and his core economic policies, and another group who favour a more populist approach.[52]

The party says it is against the Euro currency but not the European Union[53][54] and that it is neither nationalist nor anti-immigration.[55] The party was unable to agree a broad ideological designation at its Erfurt convention in March 2014.[56] 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 [57] At the outset the party presented itself as conservative and middle-class,[58] catering to a well-educated demographic, as more than two-thirds of its initial supporters held doctorates.[59]

Germany's older political parties labelled AfD's platform as populist and nationalist.[60] Other commentators classify the AfD as a protest party.[61][62] Lucke rejects the populist label, describing accusations that he is playing a "populist" card as a smear dreamt up by Left-wing academics.[63]

Policies[edit]

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".[64] 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 large private investors should bear bailout costs, not the taxpayer.
  • An orderly dissolution of the euro area, with all transfer of sovereignty to the European Union[clarification needed] must be legitimized by referendum.[64]

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.[11] The AfD supports the abolition of the pan-European Euro currency[60] and re-establishment of the Deutsche Mark.[4][dubious ] which was one of the party's conditions for entering into a governing coalition, according to Bernd Lucke.[65] 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."[66]

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.[67]

AfD's programme calls for Canadian-style immigration policies to attract more skilled foreign workers to Germany.[55]

Its policies toward women were a fight against gender mainstreaming and gender quotas in the workplace. Just before the EU elections it also vowed to "eliminate existing disadvantages".[68]

Party finances[edit]

Further information: Party finance in Germany

Because the 2013 federal election was the first fought by the party, the AfD had not received any federal funds in the run-up to it,[69] but after receiving 2 million votes it crossed the threshold for party funding and was expected to receive an estimated 1.3 to 1.5 million Euro per year of state subsidies.[70]

Reception[edit]

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".[64]

Wolfgang Schäuble criticized AfD for "unrestrained demagoguery to abuse everything that is capable of being abused".[71]

The "anti-euro professors" were dismissed as "political amateurs" in an opinion piece in the tabloid Bild.[72][73]

The political establishment has dismissed it as a "fear-mongering populist aberration".[55]

Foreign reaction

Formation of the AfD generated interest both inside Germany and beyond.[22] 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.[74] American media often describe the AfD as the German Tea Party movement,[24][75] a comparison the AfD rejects.[76]

European affiliations[edit]

Before the European Parliament election in 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. He said before the election, "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."[66] Lucke stated that the party had no concrete plans for alliances with other parties.[34] Lucke and the federal board of AfD opposed Britain's anti-EU party UKIP.[34] 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.[34]

In 2014 the AfD has said they had not been contacted by Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician of the Party for Freedom who had been seeking to form a right-wing EU parliamentary grouping ahead of the 2014 EU elections; a party spokeswoman said that the AfD "want nothing to do with people like Wilders".[77]

On 12 June 2014 the AfD was accepted into the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament.[38]

The Slovakian political party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), led by Richard Sulík, is reported to have close links to Alternative for Germany,[78] Sulik left the ALDE group in the European Parliament to sit with the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) on 2 October 2014.[79]

Public image[edit]

At the outset Afd presented itself as conservative and middle-class,[58] catering to a well-educated demographic as more than two-thirds of its initial supporters held doctorates.[59] giving it the nickname the "professors' party".[80] The party was described as professors and academics who dislike the compromises inflicted on their purist theories by German party politics.[81] 86% of the party's initial supporters were male,[27] and the AfD membership is often typified as being older and male.[citation needed]

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.[58] 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).[58][59][63] The party toned down rhetoric on their Facebook page following media allegations that it too closely evoked the language of the far-right.[58][82] 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).[58] 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.[55] The Rheinische Post pointed out that some AfD members and supporters write for the Junge Freiheit.[24][83] 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.[84]

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.[85] 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.[85] 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"[85] The analysis did point to AfD members favouring links with right-wing populist reactionary conservative content.[85] 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.[85]

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.[86] 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.[86] 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.[86] 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.[86]

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.[87][88]

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.[89] Bernd Lucke responded by saying the recommendation was unwelcome and sent a letter to party associations recommending a hiring freeze.[90] 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.[89] Co-operation with the Freedom Party remains controversial within the ranks of the AfD,[90] with some German state associations conducting vetting interviews with former Freedom Party members.[89]

PEGIDA[edit]

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."[91] 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.[92] 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.[91] A straw poll by The Economist found 9 out of 10 PEGIDA protesters would back the AfD.[93]

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.[20]

In view of the JA's independence it has been regarded by the AfD hierarchy as being somewhat wayward.[94] With the JA repeatedly accused of being "too far right,"[95] politically regressive and anti-feminist among the German media.[94]

  • 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.[96] 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.[97] 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.[95] 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."[94] The Nigel Farage event received largely negative headlines in the German media.[94]
  • 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.[98] With the JA also citing opposition to gender quota proposals in Germany for women as a motivation.[99] The campaign was described in less than flattering terms by the Rheinische Post.[100][101] 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.[94] The JA followed with a poster of four shirtless men under the slogan "end soft justice".[94]
  • 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.[102]

Tables of election results[edit]

Federal Parliament (Bundestag)
Election year No. of
constituency votes
No. of
party list votes
 % of
party list votes
No. of
overall seats won
+/–
2013 810,915 2,056,985 4.7
0 / 631
European Parliament
Election year No. of
overall votes
 % of overall vote
& ranking
No. of
overall seats won
+/–
2014 2,070,014 7.1 (#5)
7 / 96
State Parliament (Landtag)
State election, year No. of
overall votes
 % of overall vote
& ranking
No. 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
Bremen, 2015  ? 5.5 (#6)
4 / 83

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]