Alternative for Germany

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Alternative for Germany
Alternative für Deutschland
Abbreviation AfD
Chairperson Frauke Petry
Spokesperson Jörg Meuthen
Founded 6 February 2013
Youth wing Young Alternative for Germany
Membership  (2016) Increase 20,706[1]
Ideology German nationalism[2][3]
Right-wing populism[4]
Euroscepticism[5]
Conservatism[6]
National conservatism[5][7]
Economic liberalism[8]
Anti-Islam[9][10][11]
Political position Right-wing[12][13][14][15]
European affiliation None
European Parliament group EFDD,
ENF
Colours      Light blue
Bundestag
0 / 631
State Parliaments
145 / 1,857
European Parliament
2 / 96
Website
www.alternativefuer.de

The Alternative for Germany (German: Alternative für Deutschland, AfD) is a right-wing populist[16][17][18] and Eurosceptic[19][20][21][22] political party in Germany.

Founded in April 2013, the party won 4.7% of the votes in the 2013 federal election, narrowly missing the 5% electoral threshold to sit in the Bundestag. In 2014 the party won 7.1% of the votes and 7 out of 96 German seats in the European election, and subsequently joined the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group until its exclusion in April 2016. As of September 2016, the AfD had gained representation in ten of the 16 German state parliaments.[23] The party is currently led by Frauke Petry and Jörg Meuthen.

History[edit]

Founding 2012–13[edit]

In September 2012, Alexander Gauland, a former State Secretary in Hesse, Bernd Lucke, an 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.[24] 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".[25]

"Wahlalternative 2013" logo

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.[25][26] 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.[27] Advocating the abolition of the Euro, Alternative for Germany (AfD) took a more radical stance than the Free Voters.[28] Likewise, the Pirate Party of Germany opposed any coalition with the AfD at their 2013 spring convention.[29]

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.[30][31]

Second vote share percentage for AfD in the 2013 federal election in Germany, final results
Representations of AfD in the federal states of Germany

On 14 April 2013, the AfD announced its presence to the wider public when it held its first convention in Berlin, elected the party leadership and adopted a party platform. Bernd Lucke,[32] entrepreneur Frauke Petry and Konrad Adam were elected as speakers.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35] 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.[36][37] 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.[38][39]

The party was created Bernd Lucke, Alexander Gauland and Konrad Adam to confront German-supported bailouts for poorer southern European countries.[40]

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.[41]

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,[42] who was not re-elected and left office in January 2014.[43] 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.[44]

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 (lit. "Courage [to speak] the truth" or, more succinctly, "Telling it as it is"),[45] 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.[46] 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.[45][46][47] Candidates from 7th–28th place on the party list were selected in Berlin on 1 February.[48] 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.[49] 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.[50] stating that he saw the British Conservatives as the preferred partner in the European Parliament.[50] On 10 May 2014 Bernd Lucke had been in talks with the Czech and Polish member parties of ECR group.[51]

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.[52] 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.[53] The official vote result was not released to the public, but figures of 29 votes for and 26 against were reported by the membership.[53]

2014 state elections[edit]

On 31 August 2014, the AfD scored 9.7% of the vote in the Saxony state election,[54] winning 14 seats in the Landtag of Saxony.[55] 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.[56]

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,[57] 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.[58]

Petry assumes leadership, Lucke quits[edit]

After months of factional infighting and a cancelled party gathering in June 2015, on 4 July 2015 Frauke Petry was elected as the de facto principal speaker of the party with 60% of the member votes ahead of Bernd Lucke at a party congress in Essen. Petry is a member of the national-conservative faction of the AfD.[59] Her leadership was widely seen as heralding a shift of the party to the right, to focus more on issues such as migration, Islam and strengthening ties to Russia,[60] a shift which was claimed by Lucke as turning the party into a "Pegida party".[61] In the following week, 5 MEPs exited the party on 7 July, the only remaining MEPs being Beatrix von Storch and Marcus Pretzell[62] and on 8 July 2015, Lucke announced that he was resigning from the AfD, citing the rise of xenophobic and pro-Russian sentiments in the party.[63] At a meeting of members of the Wake-up call (Weckruf 2015) group on 19 July 2015, the founder of the AfD Bernd Lucke and former AfD members announced they would form a new party, the Alliance for Progress and Renewal (ALFA, since November 2016 LKR) party under the founding principles of the AfD.[64]

Co-operation with FPÖ and exclusion from ECR group[edit]

In February 2016, the AfD announced a cooperation pact with the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).[65] On 8 March 2016, the bureau of the ECR Group began motions to exclude the AfD from their group due to its links with the far-right FPÖ [66] inviting the two remaining AfD MEPs to leave the group by 31 March, with a motion of exclusion to be tabled on 12 April if they refuse to leave voluntarily.[67] While MEP Beatrix von Storch left the ECR group on 8 April to join the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group,[68][69] Marcus Pretzell let himself be expelled on 12 April 2016.[70]

2016 state elections[edit]

With the migrant debate remaining the dominant national issue, on 13 March 2016 elections held in the three states of Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt saw the AfD receiving double-digit percentages of the vote in all three states.[71][72] In the 2016 Saxony-Anhalt state election, the AfD reached second place in the Landtag, receiving 24.2% of the vote. In the 2016 Baden-Württemberg state election, the AfD achieved third place with 15.1% of the vote. In the 2016 Rhineland-Palatinate state election, the AfD again reached third place with 12.6% of the vote. In Angela Merkel's home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern her CDU was beaten into third place following a strong showing of the AfD who contested at state level for the first time, to claim the second-highest polling with 20.8% of the vote in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state election, 2016.[73][74] However AfD voter support in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania appears to have come from both left and right wing parties with support for the SPD down 4.9%, CDU down 4.1%, The Left down 5.2%, Alliance '90/The Greens down 3.9% and support for the National Democratic Party of Germany halved, dropping 3.0%. Rising support for the AfD meant that The Greens and the National Democratic Party of Germany failed to reach the 5% threshold to qualify for seats in the Landtag of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern so consequently lost their seats. In the Berlin state election, 2016 which the AfD also contested for the first time[75] they achieved a vote of 14.2% making them the fifth largest party represented in the state assembly. Their vote seems to have come equally from the SPD and CDU whose votes declined 6.7% and 5.7% respectively.[76]

2016 party congress[edit]

At the party congress held on 30 April to 1 May 2016, the AfD adopted a policy platform based upon opposition to Islam, calling for the ban of Islamic symbols including burkhas, minarets and the call to prayer, using the slogan "Islam is not a part of Germany".[9][10][11]

Ideology and policies[edit]

The AfD was founded as a centre-right conservative party of the middle class with a basis on 'soft' Euroscepticism, being generally supportive of Germany's membership of the European Union but critical of further European integration, the existence of the euro currency, and the bailouts by the eurozone for countries such as Greece.[77][78][79] The party also advocated support for Swiss-style direct democracy, dissolution of the Eurozone, opposition to immigration, and opposed gay marriage.[80]

By May 2015, the party became polarised into two factions, one centred around Lucke and his core economic policies and another group led by Petry, which favoured an anti-immigration approach. The result was a split of Lucke's fraction leaving to found a new party: the Alliance for Progress and Renewal.[81]

Family and equal opportunities[edit]

According to its interim electoral manifesto, the party wants to reintroduce the traditional family patterns.[82][83] Die Tageszeitung entitled objectives as 'old gender roles'.[84]

Environment[edit]

The party denies anthropogenic factors in the role of global warming. Therefore the party criticizes the energy transformation policies (Energiewende) in Germany; for instance, the party wants to stop "uncontrolled expansion of wind energy".[83]

Conscription[edit]

AfD wants a reinstatement of conscription, starting for men at the age of 18.[82][83]

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,[85] 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.[86]

European affiliations[edit]

Following the 2014 European Parliament elections, on 12 June 2014 the AfD was accepted into the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament.[53]

In February 2016, the AfD announced a closer cooperation with the right-wing populist party Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), which is a member of the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group.[65] On 8 March 2016, the bureau of the ECR Group began motions to exclude AfD MEPs from their group due to the party's links with the far-right FPÖ and controversial remarks about shooting immigrants.[66][67] While MEP Beatrix von Storch pre-empted her imminent expulsion, leaving the ECR group to join the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group on 8 April,[68][69] Marcus Pretzell let himself be expelled from the ECR group on 12 April 2016.[70] During the AfD party convention on 30 April 2016, Pretzell announced his intention to join the Europe of Nations and Freedom group.[87][88]

Public image[edit]

At the outset AfD presented itself as conservative and middle-class,[89] catering to a well-educated demographic as more than two-thirds of its initial supporters held doctorates,[90] giving it the nickname the "professors' party".[91] The party was described as professors and academics who dislike the compromises inflicted on their purist theories by German party politics.[92] 86% of the party's initial supporters were male.[42]

Political extremes[edit]

Alternative for Germany party organisers have been sending out the message that they are not trying to attract right-wing radicals.[89] 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).[89][90][93] The party toned down rhetoric on their Facebook page following media allegations that it too closely evoked the language of the far-right.[89][94] Former 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).[89] Outside the Berlin hotel where the party held its inaugural meeting, it has been alleged that copies of Junge Freiheit, a weekly that is also popular with the far-right were being handed out.[95] The Rheinische Post pointed out that some AfD members and supporters write for the conservative paper Junge Freiheit.[38][96] 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.[97]

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.[98] 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.[98] 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"[98] The analysis did point to AfD members favouring links with right-wing populist reactionary conservative content.[98] 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.[98]

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.[99] This ultimately led to the AfD complaining over incidents of verbal abuse and violence to its campaigners in Berlin, Lübeck, Nuremberg and the university city of Göttingen.[99] 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.[99] 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.[99]

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 eight 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 two 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.[100][101]

Following the German Federal Election 2013 the anti-Islam party Die Freiheit unilaterally pledged to support Alternative for Germany in the 2014 elections and concentrate its efforts on local elections only.[102] Bernd Lucke responded by saying the recommendation was unwelcome and sent a letter to party associations recommending a hiring freeze.[103] Earlier in September, Lucke described the Freedom Party members as coming from two camps, one of extreme Islam critics and populists, the other, ordinary democrats who were joining the AfD.[102] Co-operation with the Freedom Party remains controversial within the ranks of the AfD,[103] with some German state associations conducting vetting interviews with former Freedom Party members.[102] Referring to an initiative for an LGBT specific sex education in elementary school, Petry had asked on her social media presence if homophobia was such a common prejudice among third and fourth grade children, that it would be necessary to confront them with it. An article in the German LGBT magazine Queer interpreted her statement as a demand to protect ″normal" (allegedly referring to heterosexual) families in elementary school.[104]

AfD MEP Beatrix von Storch is a known opponent of same-sex marriage.[105] She has accused school gay youth networks of using "forced sexualization" on their students.

In November 2015, a leading Berlin theatre, the Schaubühne, was brought into legal conflict with members of the AfD over a piece, Falk Richter's FEAR, that parodied them as zombies and mass murderers. AfD vice-president Beatrix von Storch is depicted facing retribution for her grandfather's role as a minister in Hitler's government.[106][clarification needed] AfD Spokesperson, Christian Lüth, responded by interrupting a performance and filming it. Beatrix von Storch, and Conservative spokesperson Hedwig von Beverfoerde, then requested and obtained a preliminary injunction against the theatre, prohibiting it from using images of them in the production. They charged that the images' use violated their human dignity protected under the Constitution.[107] On 15 December 2015, the court ruled against the complainants in favour of the theatre's freedom of expression and lifted the injunctions against using the images. The judges commented that 'any audience member can recognize that this is just a play'.[108]

In January 2016, Frauke Petry argued for the possibility of shooting refugees at the borders to Germany. She did this twice but denied it and claimed that the press lied about her statement. Rhein-Zeitung then offered the audio-recording of the interview in which she advocates firing on refugees.[109]

PEGIDA[edit]

In response to the PEGIDA movement and demonstrations, members of AfD have expressed different views, with Lucke describing the movement as "a sign that these people do not feel their concerns are understood by politicians."[110] In response to the CDU Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere alleging an "overlap" between PEGIDA rallies and the AfD, Alexander Gauland stated that the AfD are "natural allies of this movement".[111] However, Hans-Olaf Henkel asked members of the party not to join the demonstrations, telling Der Tagesspiegel that he believed it could not be ruled out that they had "xenophobic or even racist connotations".[110] A straw poll by The Economist found that nine out of ten PEGIDA protesters would back the AfD.[112]

Junge Alternative youth organisation[edit]

The Young Alternative for Germany (German: Junge Alternative für Deutschland or JA), was founded in 2013 as the youth organisation of the AfD, while remaining legally independent from its mother party.[34]

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 64,368 5.5 (#6)
5 / 83
Baden-Württemberg, 2016 809,311 15.1 (#3)
23 / 143
Rhineland-Palatinate, 2016 267,813 12.6 (#3)
14 / 101
Saxony-Anhalt, 2016 271,646 24.4 (#2)
25 / 87
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, 2016 167,453 20.8 (#2)
18 / 71
Berlin, 2016 231,325 14.2 (#5)
25 / 160

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