First published in Times of Israel
Elections in Germany are always of great importance for the relationship between nations. Therefore, it seems useful to take a closer look at the individual parties that could win seats in parliament. The focus of this article is the Alternative for Germany. The party presents itself as pro-Jewish in many statements and publications. However, the Central Council of Jews classifies the AfD in the following way:
„[…] The AfD is a party in which hatred of Jews and relativization up to denial of the Shoah have a home. The AfD is anti-democratic, inhuman and in large parts radical right […]“
Who, therefore, is the AfD? Where does it come from? Who votes for the party? What is its strategy and what chances does it have this coming Sunday?
The roots of the AFD
The roots of the AfD lie in a smaller protest movement against the euro bailout policy from whose environment the Alternative for Germany was founded in 2013. Initially still a national and economic liberal „professors‘ party,“ the structure changed massively in the coming years through resignations and numerous new members in the direction of national conservatism and right-wing populism. At least parts of the party or individuals were or are suspected of right-wing extremism, and internal conflicts are an ongoing issue.
The AfD of 2021 is therefore no longer comparable with that of 2013. What they both have in common, however, is that they have been able to establish themselves as a symbol against the establishment by filling gaps that the former mainstream parties in particular have opened up with their hunt for the „new center,“ and for such a party, cultivating its own image is more important than content.
Who votes for the AfD?
Basically, the party’s voters are predominantly male (60%), young or middle-aged, and have a medium (44%) to good level of education (31%). The Alternative is thus not a rallying point for the uneducated, as is often claimed. While pensioners are less likely to vote for the AfD so far, the party is interesting for both the unemployed and high-income earners.
A closer look quickly reveals that very many ballot box voters are found precisely where the established parties have partially retreated: About 22-25% of voters come from the middle-class center, about 11-15% from the conservative-establishment milieu and around 15% from traditional lifestyles. In addition, there are the precarious lifestyles (about 15%), from which many protest and non-voters can be recruited. It is also worth mentioning that the Alternative is far more popular in the east than in the west and has ultimately found its political home there.
Although the party is still young, it can therefore now be stated that it has a solid core of voters of around 5% for the federal elections. The rest is mobilized against the established parties. The maximum potential is likely to be around 20 %. However, research opinions differ here. The Erich von Werner Society considers the 20 %, under appropriate conditions, to be realistic.
What is the AfD’s election campaign strategy?
The AfD’s strategy can be roughly divided into six plans:
- to be perceived as an alternative to the establishment at all costs
- try to occupy a core issue (e.g., the euro, migration) that is associated with the party
- be able to make at least a basic statement on every other issue (e.g. pensions) in order to break away from the image of a one- or two-issue party
- online campaigning must compensate for disadvantages in offline campaigning
- be politically incorrect in order to make the leap into the mass media
- stir up milieu struggles and use the discharges for themselves
This strategy is only partially successful. The party failed to occupy a core issue in 2021, such as the refugee crisis in 2017. Nor does it want to succeed in polarization through provocations. Both the media and the political competition have learned their lesson here.
The milieu boundaries were shifted in 2021, also by Corona, and the AfD’s topics are only suitable to a limited extent to light the fire in the realities of life – at least for the moment. Other policy areas, on the other hand, are little associated with the alternative. However, the party remains strong in the online election campaign, although this has led to the typical behavioral capitalist embedding mechanisms, i.e., it primarily reaches and polarizes its own clientele.
Ultimately, the AfD’s only option is to keep its own voters happy, which it will succeed in doing, because the stigmatization of the party helps to keep its own ranks closed and thus the anti-establishment course is indirectly fueled by the political competition. On the other hand, this prevents further growth, which will not be possible without a major issue.
Ultimately, it is not the Alternative for Germany’s election campaign. It is stagnating and must rather hope for, for it, „better times“ in order to achieve a higher result. Given the coming age of collective individualism and all its challenges, however, this could happen very quickly, because stormy times await the Western world and thus also Germany.
Forecast for the Bundestag elections
The AfD has now established itself, has a solid voter base, especially in the east of the country, manages to activate protest and non-voters, but is also stagnating and has not found a sparkling theme in the entire election campaign. The election result will settle between 9% and 12%.