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AfD Alternative fuer Deutschland / "Alternative for Germany"

Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) placed the Alternative for Germany (AfD) under surveillance, according to local media reports 03 March 2021. That designation gave state agents more powers for surveillance in certain circumstances, including potentially tapping the party's communications. The BfV refused to comment on media reports from Der Spiegel magazine, the DPA news agency and public broadcaster ARD. The Interior Ministry, which oversees the BfV, said it would neither confirm nor deny them. Volker Ullrich — interior affairs spokesman for the CSU, the conservative Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats — appeared to suggest the new surveillance status was a fait accompli. In a tweet, he described it as a "consistent and correct decision." Ullrich said "The concept of a defensible democracy means naming and fighting the opponents of the free democratic basic order". Parts of the AfD — including the party's youth division and the Flügel (Wing) extremist group — have already attracted the attention of the intelligence community. The Flügel came under full surveillance by the BfV last year after the agency said its members included proven right-wing extremists.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) affinities with Trump Republicans include fear of immigrants and foreigners; hostility toward the European Union; and contempt for standard operating procedure in government and willingness to gut the state apparatus. As a jingoistic "Make Germany Great Again" outfit full of unpredictable political neophytes, the AfD is fairly comparable to the Trumpites.

Frauke Petry, the leader of the xenophobic far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD - Alternative fuer Deutschland), earned the nickname “Adolfina” for her inflammatory remarks. The Berlin election on 18 September 2016 was bad news for Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) but it was not as shocking as the vote in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania two weeks earlier. Putting the result in a more positive light, the CDU is the second-strongest party in the German capital - behind the Social Democratic SPD. The CDU also managed to hold off Alternative for Germany (AfD). Thus the CDU's traumatic experience of being overtaken by the rightwing populists in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania did not repeat itself.

AfD made significant gains in local elections 04 September 2016. With about 20.8% of votes, the anti-immigrant AfD came second in eastern Mecklenburg-Vorpommern [Western Pomorania] regional election, beating Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party into third on her home turf. The center-left Social-Democrats (SPD), who scored 30.6% of the vote, came first and Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was pushed into a humiliating third at 19%.

Critics of the AfD said its rhetoric had frightening similarities to the Nazi regime, especially after the party’s draft manifesto was leaked in March 2016, with policies including incentivising German women to have three or more children, imprisoning drug addicts and people with mental health issues who did not respond to therapy. It also contained clear jabs at the Muslim community, including the banning of minarets and niqabs.

In the 2005 general election, the CDU/CSU gained 226 seats, and the SPD gained 222 seats. Neither could govern alone, and so there was formed the Grand Coalition in which they governed together [the rather more vouptuous French refer to such an arrangement as cohabitation]. The 2009 election produced a similar arrangment. The CDU-SPD coalition prompted SPD left-wingers, already bitter about labor reforms launched by the last SPD chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, to leave in droves. The Grand Coalition moved the CDU towards the center of the political spectrum, creating a political space that had thitherto been occupied by the right wing of the party. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

AfD Alternative fuer Deutschland is a German euroskeptic party, which was founded in 2013. AfD failed to enter the national parliament in 2013, but then won seats in five of Germany's 16 state parliaments before the 2015 migrant crisis. The AfD has been accused of appealing to right-wing extremist voters - a charge the party officials strongly reject. The party's central argument is that the euro is a failed currency that threatens the European Union’s future by supporting impoverished countries and uncompetitive economies, which in turn burdens future generations.

In 2014 an Afd politician from Thuringia, Björn Höcke, shouted "Three thousand years Europe! One thousand years Germany" at a demonstration. He later denied in a nationally televised interview that his words were reminiscent of Adolf Hitler's "Thousand-Year Reich!" rallying cry. While Germany has dealt with nationalist parties since the Federal Republic was founded in 1949, the AfD poses a new problem: the party established itself out of the refugee crisis, but that doesn't come from the right-wing extremism scene, as was the case with the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD).

The German daily "Bild am Sonntag" reported on 24 January 2016 that the populist right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party had reached 10 percent for the first time in a recent poll. According to the article, 17 percent of men would vote for AfD while only 2 percent of women would do so. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, saw its support fall by 2 percentage points to 36 percent. The Social Democrats (SPD), the CDU's coalition partner, came in at 25 percent.

On 22 February 2016 a survey, conducted for the popular "Bild" newspaper, showed the right wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party ahead of leftists the Social Democrats (SPD) in the state of Saxony-Anhalt. The AfD had the support of 17 percent of voters in the eastern state Saxony-Anhalt, a surge of 12 points since September 2015. The "Bild" poll had the SPD at 16 percent in Saxony-Anhalt, with the CDU clearly out in front at 30 percent. Leftists in the state did not need to totally despair, however, as the more socialist Left party was still much stronger than the AfD with 17 percent support from voters.

A poll for broadcaster ARD showed support for the AfD in Saxony-Anhalt at 19 percent, a result that would make it the third strongest party there after Merkel's Christian Democrats and the communist-rooted Linke party. In Baden Württemberg, AfD polled at 13 percent, with 9 percent projected support in Rhineland-Palatinate.

The idea that right-wing ideology was only found in isolated pockets of German society was debunked in Saxony, which was not only the birthplace of Pegida, but also one of the first states where the "Alternative für Deutschland" (AfD) party won seats in parliament.

The party was only founded in the spring of 2013, yet the Alternative for Germany - or AfD - gained nearly 1.5 million votes, only narrowly missing the five percent threshold that would have taken them into parliament. They campaigned on an anti-euro platform.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party was soon under pressure from all sides. One of its local leaders in the German state of Hesse is accused of having right-wing extremist sympathies, and numerous internal disagreements divided the party. All the while, the euro - the party's main object of contempt - has proven robust despite the challenges the eurozone has faced so far. The AfD's diminished standing in the opinion polls is a reflection of its current internal turmoil.

Most of the talk centered on the AfD's branch in the German state of Hesse. Its state treasurer, Peter Ziemann, is accused of issuing a warning online about criminal immigrants eroding society, and referring to "vermin" in the same context. He is also reported to have said, "The socialism of today that calls itself democracy will have to suffer the same fate as the Eastern Bloc." Many people regarded this statement as contravening the values of the German constitution - yet it won approval from the AfD chairman in Hesse, Volker Bartz, who called it "philosophically interesting."

The party's federal leader, Bernd Lucke, responded by stripping Ziemann of his office and suggesting that Bartz step down- a suggestion that was also related to some questionable behavior by Bartz in his last job. Confidential e-mail correspondence between Lucke and Bartz was leaked to the press. Ultimately, the AfD head decided to remove Bartz from office as his chairmanship was causing "serious damage to the party."

The party's public image is another problem, as many voters don't even know who the AfD's candidates are. Most Germans have heard of the party's national chairman Bernd Lucke, but "few other figures are generally well-known," said Manfred Güllner who heads opinion research institute Forsa. "The AfD lacks a public figure like [Austrian politician Jörg] Haider. Then they could become a real threat to the other parties."

Parties only need to clear a 3 percent threshold to make it into the European Parliament. And the actual voter turnout would play an important role as well. "Considering that the turnout for the European election will probably be very low - possibly less than 40 percent - 750,000 votes would be enough to get 3 percent of all votes. For the first time, Germany's contingent of 96 European Parliament deputies will include euroskeptics: The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), was estimated to have won six of the 96 German seats, as they won 7 percent of the vote. Party leader Bernd Lucke was triumphant: "This is springtime in Germany," he said.

The AfD has gone through quite a mutation in its short life. Founded just over three years ago by a group of disgruntled economists who wanted to dismantle the eurozone and prevent the bailing-out of Greece, the party has deftly switched policies to suit the next big "crisis" preoccupying the German media - the influx of Middle East refugees that began last year. After steadily mounting internal pressure in the first half of 2015, the ideological switch was flicked in July 2015, when co-founder and leader Bernd Lucke, a 53-year-old economics professor, was ousted by current leader Frauke Petry. The split was brought about by an increasing influx of new members - many of whom were sympathetic to the "anti-Islamization" movement PEGIDA.

Among the most visible of the new extremists the party has attracted was Björn Höcke, leader of the AfD's parliamentary party in Thuringia. In a speech in November 2015, Höcke drew a genetic distinction between the "life-affirming African proliferation type" and the "self-denying European placeholder type" and warned that the Africans' "reproductive behavior" would not change as long as Europe took in immigrants. The AfD leadership distanced itself from the remarks - chairman Jörg Meuthen described them as "foolishness - both politically and content-wise" - but ultimately voted against calling on him to resign from the party.

Frauke Petry took the reins of the party in July 2015 after a bitter power struggle with the AfD’s co-founder and first leader, Bernd Lucke. This turned off AfD supporters, causing the party's popularity to plummet. It was only after discontent with Merkel's refugee policies began to rise that the AfD was able to grow its numbers again. She had been presented as the “smiling face” of the party. Petry was born in East Germany, but when she was a teenager, her father managed to get a tourist visa for West Germany. He brought over his wife and two daughters and they set up a new life there.

With Petry at the helm, the AfD would stick to its relatively moderate neo-conservative profile - otherwise, more radical forces would call the shots. Petry was widely criticised for her controversial statements, most of which have to do with immigration. In one widely publicised interview with a German newspaper in January, she said German border police should be allowed to use arms “if necessary” to stop illegal border crossings by migrants. Petry stressed that provocation is a tool that she isn’t afraid of using. In that way, many argue that she resembles American presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The party's uneasy relationship with the far-right was underlined when the the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) called on voters in the regional election to use one of their two votes for the AfD. The AfD'S response was swift: "We have no overlaps with the NPD whatsoever."

The famous Hofbräukeller must allow the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) to use its premises for a party event, a court. The landlord had cited reservations over the beer hall's reputation and security. The right-wing populist party had reserved the renowned beer hall for a party gathering. Munich's state court ruled that the party's 13 May 2016 meeting would go ahead. Today, however, the restaurant is a popular eatery for locals and tourists alike, thanks to its offering of traditional Bavarian food, beer selection and interior design. In 1919, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler made his first political speech at the Hofbräukeller.

While the AfD's successes and its rise to double digits in national polls around the country (putting it neck and neck with the Green party and the Left party) were undoubtedly down to popular dissatisfaction with Angela Merkel's refugee policy, the AfD also made a deliberate effort to poach the chancellor's Christian conservative base.

One of the main planks of its party program is promoting the traditional family. In 2014, the Baden-Württemberg AfD voted against a plan to bring more teaching about homosexuality into the school curriculum, and the official party manifesto makes a vehement case against what it calls "gender mainstreaming," by which it means policies that undermine "traditional gender roles." The Baden-Württemberg AfD's manifesto even suggested that state broadcasters should be made to "present marriage and family in a positive way."

Deputy leader Beatrix von Storch made these issues her own within the party, speaking out against abortion, against same-sex marriage, and against what she calls the "sexualization of society." She declared her opposition to a government campaign promoting the use of condoms, saying the campaign should have promoted abstinence instead.

A less-discussed element of the AfD's program is its vehement opposition to Germany's Renewable Energy Act (EEG), introduced in 2000 and renewed in 2014 to regulate and subsidize Germany's transition to renewables. The AfD says it is against any subsidies in the energy market, on the grounds that they damage Germany's competitiveness. The party's position is on climate change is summed up in three sentences on its website: "Scientific research on the long-term development of the climate because of man-made CO2 emissions is fraught with uncertainty. On top of that, a global problem can be solved only by a coordinated initiative of all the big economic nations. For that reason, the AfD rejects all national and European unilateral action."

The AfD's original purpose is still very much part of its plan - "Germany doesn't need the euro. Other countries are damaged by the euro," is one of the first statements on its website. The party would like to see the reintroduction of national currencies, as well as provisions to make sure that there are no more payments to the European Stability Mechanism, or indeed to bail out banks and hedge funds.

The AfD deputy chairman Alexander Gauland considered a possible accession of his party to a new European populist alliance, which would include the right-wing French party National Front (FN) and other European factions. The politician is in favor of AfD joining the union, should the new group of EU-critical parties be established in the near future, he told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10 April 2016.

"You do not have to like the FN, but the moment might come when you will have to say: we can cooperate with the FN, even if we don't agree with everything it stands for," Gauland said. The AfD's new course surprised many as only a few months ago the party distanced itself from the National Front, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and other right-wing factions in Europe.

When the party's representative Björn Höcke congratulated the National Front on its victory in the French regional elections, he was sharply criticized by the party's federal spokesman Jörg Meuthen who called the statement "wrong and inappropriate." Höcke again supported the French populist party and emphasized similarities between the AfD and the National Front. A couple of months ago such a statement would have led to a sharp criticism and the organization of a special party meeting on the issue. This time, however, his statement has not been met with any opposition.

AfD was rapidly gaining popularity amid a deteriorating situation with refugees in Germany. The party is advocating for a stricter migration policy and proposes alternative, tough, ways to resolve the current crisis.

Jan Riebe at the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, noted in July 2016 that "The AfD is not a genuinely anti-Semitic party. That would mean that the party is actually being held together by anti-Semitic sentiments, but this is not the case. However, many AfD members do share anti-Semitic ideas; they have an anti-Semitic view of the world, meaning that they believe that Jews are the masterminds of all evil. So, in that sense, anti-Semitism does play an essential role in the AfD."

Young people opposed to what they regard as a leftist-Greens mainstream in the country have turned to the party's "Young Alternative" youth organization. In some parts of eastern Germany, one out of three youths votes for the AfD, or the even more extreme NPD. The AfD attracts swing voters from all political parties, and has also been able to mobilize traditional non-voters, including poorly skilled and educated Germans as well as eastern Germans still struggling decades after German reunification. The party has even found supporters among migrant groups, such as the ethnic Germans from Russia.

Frauke Petry the co-chair and longtime public face of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), would not join her party's parliamentary grouping in the new Bundestag, after months of feuding with the rest of the AfD leadership. "We should be open about the fact that there is conflict regarding content within the AfD, we should not pretend it doesn't exist," Petry told reporters 25 September 2017. All other political parties have said they are unwilling to work with the AfD.

A study from the University of Marburg in western Germany found that the traditional narratives around far-right voters may be more based in stereotype than fact. Sociologist Martin Schröder blasted the widely held idea of the low-income, poorly-educated Alternative for Germany (AfD) voter as not being representative of the truth. The fact is, wrote Schröder in the August 2018 study, that only one category truly unites the right wing: xenophobia. "AfD supporters come from every level and part of society," Schröder wrote. The one thing they all have in common, however, is "they don't want refugees to migrate to Germany." He added that it was "curious, none of the existing studies have calculated the influence of xenophobic attitudes, despite how it overshadows" every other factor.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:04:31 ZULU