The Alternative for Germany from Breakthrough toward Consolidation?

A Comparative Perspective on Its Organizational Development

in German Politics and Society
E. Gene Frankland Political Science, Ball State University, USA

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The emergence of new parties, especially of populist radical-right parties, has generated considerable scholarly as well as media attention in recent decades. German exceptionalism since the 1950s has come to an end with the electoral successes of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), formed in 2013. Comparative studies, however, provide caution about quick pronouncements of party system transformation. Party organization is an important factor in a new party's coping with changing external circumstances. Accordingly, this article concerns itself first with the formative circumstances of the AfD compared to those of the Greens and the Pirates, earlier new parties that challenged the established parties. Second, the article focuses on the institutionalization of the AfD as a party organization since 2013. To what extent has it followed the design of successful populist radical-right parties, such as the Austrian Freedom Party (FPӦ) and the Italian Northern League (ln)? Third, the article considers the prospective relationships between the AfD and established parties. Such challenger parties have agency and may switch from government-mode to opposition-mode and back again without lasting electoral harm. In conclusion, the AfD seems likely to survive its first term in the Bundestag, but it seems unlikely soon to be mainstreamed by its participation in electoral and parliamentary politics.

Contributor Notes

E. Gene Frankland is Professor of Political Science at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana. His research has focused on Green parties (especially the German Greens), and the emergence of new challenger parties in Europe. His publications include Between Protest and Power: The Green Party in Germany with Don Schoonmaker (Boulder, 1992); The International Encyclopedia of Environmental Politics, with John Barry (London, 2002); and Green Parties in Transition, with Paul Lucardie and Benoȋt Rihoux (Burlington, 2008).

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