Germany’s far-right AfD searching for new momentum ahead of election
The Alternative for Germany (AfD) is the country’s most successful far-right party since the war, but its latest election results suggest it has hit a ceiling.
This should be a good time for the Alternative for Germany (AfD), if only because, with Chancellor Angela Merkel no longer a candidate in September’s election, Germany has no choice but to choose an alternative.
The built-in uncertainty of Germany’s political future has been exacerbated in recent months by a series of legacy-scarring crises marking Merkel’s final year in power and eroded trust in the political establishment.
As political analyst and far-right specialist Florian Hartleb noted, the coronavirus pandemic has given the AfD opportunities. “Germany is in a big legitimacy crisis,” Hartleb told DW. “There’s a dramatic decline in support for the government and especially Angela Merkel, because of the lack of vaccines and other issues. This is the perfect opportunity for the AfD, which is the party against the grand coalition.”
“Basically, Jörg Meuthen is clearly under fire within the party, and he’s not powerful enough to kick the Wing out, which he wanted to do,” said Hartleb. “But if I was advising the AfD — which I’m not, of course — I would say: Keep silent because the more they keep silent the more votes they’re getting. They lost a lot of energy with these internal struggles.”
So while the upcoming party gathering formally is about the election manifesto, 100 party members have announced that they want Meuthen to be removed as party leader at the gathering in Dresden. And there is pressure to decide now on the top candidate for the September general election — something Meuthen would like to delay.
Despite the stain of extremism and the insistence of all other parties that they will never cooperate with the AfD, the party is far from struggling, according to Hartleb.
The party has shown no sign of backing down from extremist rhetoric.
The AfD also claims that it has expanded its voter base in the past few years. It started out in 2013 as a Euroskeptic party dominated by academics, and went on to capitalize on anti-immigration sentiment in 2015 making gains with the economically disadvantaged. “The AfD is much more than just the party of the losers of modernization,” Hartleb said. “Many middle-class people vote for the AfD too.”