Germany and the far right of the political spectrum do not historically mix.
So why is it that a party of the far right (granted, one not nearly as radical or hate-filled as the Nazi Party was) is picking up steam in the largest and most powerful European Union country?
In recent weeks, the Alternative for Germany (AFD) has achieved regional representation in eight German states. There are 16 German states in total.
AFD is a far right populist party in a similar vein as the National Front in France and UKIP in the United Kingdom.
The ragtag party has managed to bite at the heels of the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU), and appears to be gaining popularity across the country.
This is largely due to the anti immigration platform of the party in response to Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s policies on resettling refugees, primarily from Syria.
AFD has a unique opportunity for swift gains due to its novel position on the political spectrum.
A pro right wing backlash has been felt across the West, be it the Tea Party or Euroskeptics, but AFD has been making attempts at separating itself from the most extreme elements of German political life.
According to the Q&A section of the party’s website, the AFD breaks with the ranks of other far right parties by being in support of continued German participation in both the EU and NATO, though with caveats to both of these organizations that favor a more independent foreign policy.
AFD also voices disapproval of TTIP (a proposed free trade agreement between the United States and Europe), subsidies for energy research, while favoring “re-nationalizing” of the banking sector, and promoting marriage between men and women as “politically desirable”.
All of these positions seem to indicate that AFD is interested in focusing inward, and is not particularly hostile to longstanding German policy.
Despite this resemblance closer to the American Republican Party than particularly sinister right wing parties like PEGIDA, the party has been moved more so to the extreme by the Party’s president Frauke Petry, who has brought anti-immigration rhetoric and closer ties to the Kremlin to the forefront of its public perception.
This will likely only continue due to the departure of the party’s moderating influence, Bernd Lucke, cofounder of AFD, left the party in 2015 when ousted from the party presidency by Petry.
Lucke founded another Euroskeptic party Alliance for Progress and Renewal (ALFA), and complained that AFD had grown far too xenophobic.
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Cover Photo Credit: Martin Fisch/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)