The Left Party and the AfD

Populist Competitors in Eastern Germany

in German Politics and Society
Jonathan Olsen Government, Texas Woman’s University

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In the 2017 German Federal Election. The Left Party (Die Linke, or LP) saw its vote share in eastern Germany seriously erode. The main culprit behind the LP’s losses was the Alternative for Germany (AfD): 430,000 voters who cast their ballots for the LP in 2013 voted for the AfD in 2017. Why was this the case? This article suggests that the AfD in 2017 was able to attract protest voters, largely in eastern Germany, dissatisfied with the state of democracy and the political establishment in Germany who once voted for the LP. The LP and AfD have become eastern German populist competitors.

Contributor Notes

Jonathan Olsen is Professor and Chair of the Department of History and Government at Texas Woman’s University. He is the co-author (with Dan Hough and Michael Koβ) of two books on the LP, The Left Party in Contemporary German Politics (Basingstoke, 2007) and Left Parties in National Governments (Basingstoke, 2010), two other books on the far right in German and EU politics, and numerous articles in this and other journals including German Politics and Problems of Post-Communism. He is the North American Secretary for the International Association for the Study of German Politics and has received grants from the Fulbright Program and the German Academic Exchange Service. E-mail:

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