Until 2013, right-wing populist or extremist parties were unable to establish themselves as a relevant political force in Germany. With the advent of the Alternative für Deutschland the party landscape has changed significantly. The window of opportunity for the newcomer was opened in 2013 by the Euro crisis. Combining euroskepticism with liberal economic policies and a conservative social issue agenda the AfD mainly capitalized on the neglecting of these matters by the liberal party and the Christian democrats. Controversy between the market-oriented moderate wing represented by party founder Bernd Lucke and the radical advocates of national populism led to the split off of the former in July 2015. Only with the refugee crisis did the AfD regain its electoral fortunes and obtained its best results thus far in the March 2016 state elections. Most probably, the party’s prospects will remain promising if one considers the voter’s side. The main risks lie in its own ranks, where ideological battles, personal struggles and the unresolved question of how to distance the party from right-wing extremism could further self-destruction.
Frank Decker is professor in the Institute für Politische Wissenschaft und Soziologie, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn in Germany. His main research interests focus on problems of institutional reforms in Western democracies, party systems and right-wing populism. Recent publications include Der Irrweg der Volksgesetzgebung (Bonn, 2016) and Parteiendemokratie im Wandel (Baden-Baden 2016).