Comparing AfD To Other Anti-Immigrant/Right Wing Parties: What Makes Them Different

The Alternative for Germany, or AfD, party is a far-right German political party that was founded in 2013. In 2017, it became the third largest party in the Bundestag with 12.6% of votes

Comparing AfD To Other Anti-Immigrant/Right Wing Parties: What Makes Them Different

The Alternative for Germany, or AfD, party is a far-right German political party that was founded in 2013. In 2017, it became the third largest party in the Bundestag with 12.6% of votes. However, this past year has been difficult for the AfD. The party has fallen apart internally and there are signs that it may be reaching a dead-end. In this blog post I will explore the rise and fall of the AfD and what this result means for German politics going forward.

The Rise and Fall of the AfD
In its first two years of existence, the party had a meteoric rise. In 2013, it received almost 5% of the vote. It was the first time in almost 70 years that a party other than the CDU or SPD received 5% of the vote. Two years later, it grew to 17% in the polls and came in second place with almost 13% of the vote. To put these numbers in perspective, in 2012 the Green Party garnered less than 3% of the vote. In 2014, the AfD became the third largest party in the Bundestag and today it sits in the Bundestag as the first far-right party to sit in the chamber since World War II. But the AfD's meteoric rise came to a screeching halt. Its support dropped from 14% in 2014 to 8% in 2016. From then on it was a roller coaster of election results, bounces and drops.

A New Era For German Politics?
This election was an unusual one. The AfD was able to use the anger at Merkel's open-door policy towards refugees to take nearly 13% of the vote in national elections, its best showing to date. Despite its loss in the national government, the party is now in 12 of the 16 state parliaments across Germany. The AfD was able to gain support in part because it was able to take advantage of Merkel's campaign mistakes. After initially hoping to "reset" on her immigration policies by working with her political rivals, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), Merkel appeared to fold to pressure from the AfD. After a full week of division and disagreement between her coalition partners, Merkel announced that the CDU and SPD would form a grand coalition instead.

Lessons Learned from the Fall of the AfD
The AfD fell from grace in dramatic fashion. It started the year by having a better than expected showing in elections in March 2018, winning over a quarter of the vote. However, as the year went on it slowly began to disintegrate as the party's rhetoric became more extreme and its internal infighting became more extreme. By the end of the year, it had shed half of its members in the state parliaments and became unable to form government in any state. Many parties start with the goal of serving as the voice of the people. The AfD set out to become the voice of the Germans who have been pushed to the margins of the political conversation. The party has been successful in this because they have developed a sharp critique of Germany's policies towards the wider world.

Conclusion
When one political party becomes the third largest party in a major country, it means that it has been the recipient of a lot of attention. After nearly a decade in the political wilderness, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) has achieved success by tapping into several large groups of voters, particularly from the progressive wing of the conservative Christian Democrat Union (CDU). It has done so through its stance against the far-left party Die Linke, and its willingness to incorporate populist, nationalist, and reactionary ideas.