By Steven Martin Kensington
The 2017 German election took place the 24th of September, and unsurprisingly, Merkel remains in power for her 4th term with her party Christian Democratic Union (CDU) receiving just over 33% of the vote. But an interesting trend seems to be taking place when looking at the changes in percentage, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) receiving 12,3% of the vote, a 7,9 percentile increase since the last election, when the party had just been founded. The AfD’s increase seems to match with CDU’s decrease of 8,5%, so the hypothesis is that CDU lost about 8% of its voters to the AfD. Whether this is a trend or not cannot be determined according to the little data that we have, but if it really turns out to be one, it would confirm the belief of a rising right-wing populism in Europe. According to Thomas Greven, who wrote a report about a rise of right-wing populism in Europe and the US, defined populism as follows, “Populism’s central and permanent narrative is the juxtaposition of a (corrupt) ‘political class,’ ‘elite,’ or ‘establishment,’ and ‘the people,’ as whose sole authentic voice the populist party bills itself. Populists thus favor instruments of direct democracy.” The “elite” the AfD supposedly fights against, is that of the European Union. But what really is the alternative AfD wants to provide for Germany? Labeled by many a far-right party, is it really as radical as it is suggested to be?
AfD makes clear the reasoning for its creation in their program: “We come together in the firm conviction, that the citizens have a right to a real political alternative, an alternative to, what the political class believes, being able to expect us as ‘alternative-less.’” It has been accused for two main reasons to be called far-right: Anti-EU stance and strict immigration. Let’s see what they have on their program to be called such. Their EU politics is stated powerfully early in the program: “Should the common recollection of a “Europe of the Fatherlands” not be possible with the current partners in the EU, must Germany leave the EU with Great Britain as role model.” The stance seems to be, in context with the rest of their statements on EU policy, that unless sovereignty is placed first before the EU by its members, will AfD be wishing to leave following the footsteps of Great Britain. Whether Great Britain will perform a hard or soft Brexit will depend on how much they have done by March 2019. If they’ve finished by then, it will be a soft one, and if not, it will be a hard one, and other European parties in other nations are looking to Great Britain, like AfD does, as a role model on how to leave the European Union, so the results of Brexit can also turn out to be the result of to which degree other European nations will be able to leave the union.
According to Reuters, the founder of the AfD, Bernd Lucke, left the party “partly due to rising xenophobia and pro-Russian sentiment in its ranks.” But if the “bigotry” in the party is rising, why are their numbers rising? Succeeding Lucke, came Frauke Petry in as chairwoman of the party in the summer of 2015, whom Reuters suggests Lucke had “been in open conflict with” for the previous year of her becoming chairwoman, and she unexpectedly stepped down as candidate for Chancellor in April because she “wanted to change the party’s policies to appeal to more moderate voters.” She and other members have allegedly been “flirting openly with the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement,” which worries about an “Islamization of Germany.” The Anti-EU stance is to a large degree rooted in their ineffective and careless immigration policy. The fear is that too much immigration from Islamic countries could lead to cultural demographic change, with Islam, instead of Judeo-Christianity, as being the main root of the civilizational morality. This is what seems to be at least one cause of the “rising right-wing Populism” in Europe, thus making an alternative for Germany which recognizes these issues attractive. This is by the Left side of politics often interpreted as “xenophobia”, the fear of members of other countries, but that accusation is responded with by the reasoning of “if they come here, they should adapt to our culture, not the opposite.”
Maybe we can find their stance on this more specifically when looking at their immigration policy. Point 5.1 in their program is titled with “Africa can’t be rescued in Europe.” This is elaborated with that when Africans are migrating to Europe, it won’t help the well-being of the African countries they leave. “While the European population overages and shrinks, the population of Africa and the Arabic-Muslim countries explodes.” But how specifically will AfD handle immigration apart from this supposed anti-non-Western-immigration stance? Mrs. Petry stepped down as candidate for Chancellor due to the objection that “the party has to choose between realpolitik and ideological opposition.” She, as well as her predecessor, Mr. Lucke, noticed that there is an internal problem in their politics in that it is rooted in ideological opposition rather than having their own clear political ideology. Their party has come under fire for the party’s right-wing representative Björn Höcke, who allegedly called the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin a “monument of shame”, and that “Germany should stop feeling remorse for its Nazi past.”
For the Alternative for Germany to provide reasonable alternatives for Germany, they seem to need to fundamentally rethink their philosophy and transform their politics and tactics into a tenable and coherent one to give an alternative the moderate voter would approve of. If Björn Höcke is ever to become leader of the party, the party will forever have failed to distance themselves from the Nazi Party of their country’s past, but if Petry manages to appropriately reform the party, which she could likely have done far more easily if she were Chancellor, it may have hope to provide Germany a real alternative, but for now, and until then, it will need fundamental reform to provide so. If not done in time, the moderates will leave and the extremists flush in, so they’re in a hurry to save the party from becoming such if it is to be saved.