AEven ten years after the party was founded, the “Alternative for Germany” is a thorn in the side of German democracy. They didn’t let themselves be shaken off like the NPD or the “Republicans”, who celebrated temporary successes but quickly disappeared again, partly because they didn’t play a major role in everyday parliamentary life and in public.
For the AfD, on the other hand, the paradox seems to apply: even if it no longer existed, it would still be elected.
In any case, the AfD has done everything in these ten years to disappear again. Its leaders fell out on several occasions or were overthrown. In each case, this was connected with the fact that the party became radicalized, until finally the protection of the constitution became active. One of its founding fathers spoke of a “monster”, also because the party lived up to all the clichés that it ascribed to the “old parties”: intrigues, affairs, scandals, fights to the death. Rarely has the AfD really dealt with the country it claims to care about. She was mostly concerned with herself.
Strongest party in some parts of the east
Her followers don’t seem to mind. In some parts of the East it has developed into the strongest party, while in the West it regularly enters parliament. More than ever, it is a protest party, most of whom know what they are against, but very few how they imagine the future. The protest was initially directed against European politics, then it went against Islam and always against immigration. The Corona crisis and, more recently, politics in Russia have offered sporadic opportunities for forays into protest voters.
At its core, however, the AfD is a party that is defined by its relationship to the “people” and, as a result, repeatedly ignites in a part of this people. And ignites. Because the party has chosen a state as its enemy that long ago finally broke with a purely ethnic or even racially defined citizenry and nation.
Great playground for the party
The AfD embellishes its image of the enemy with “establishment” or “elite” or “system” in order to be able to claim to be the savior of an original version of this people. That goes down well with an electorate whose worldview is unsettled because homeland, people and fatherland have not become what they seemed to be in national dreams before reunification.
The more the parties, which up until a good twenty years ago still served a nationally minded clientele, adapted to the new era, the larger the AfD’s playing field became. It corresponds to the field of agitation of all right-wing populist parties that have meanwhile formed across the EU. Common breeding ground is the recurring dissatisfaction with migration policy, which can be best served with the idealization of popular harmony.
Perennial issues of migration and integration
Nothing can be changed in this constellation so quickly. There will continue to be migration and unsolvable integration problems. In view of the fact that migration to Germany has been poorly controlled for ten years, it is even astonishing that the AfD has not grown as much as the protest parties in other European countries. But it is not surprising that the AfD still exists. As long as the radical change in society encounters long-established reluctance, it will grow stronger rather than weaker. Especially since the resistance she encounters is not very effective.
The greatest success of the AfD so far was to have the Thuringian FDP deputy Kemmerich elected prime minister alongside the CDU. The embarrassment of the parties as to how to deal with the AfD was revealed here. What the Left Party, until recently also a candidate for the protection of the Constitution, was granted shortly after the SED dictatorship, indirect or direct government participation, was denied to the AfD. The exclusion can be well justified with their radicalization. However, it is not an answer to the question of whether up to a third of the entire electorate should remain permanently excluded.
For the SPD, Greens, FDP and Left Party, however, the answer seems to be clear. You don’t need AfD voters to govern. Thuringia is also the best example of this. There and elsewhere, the CDU seems to have been given sole responsibility for breaking down the AfD.
The Merkel era of grand coalitions, which made a significant contribution to the emergence of the AfD, cannot be reversed. But the failure to address the discontent that is easy prey for seducers of the people does. None of the parties to the left of the AfD have found the right language for this in the past ten years.
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