Within a mere five years, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) has established itself in the German party system. During the same period, however, it has undergone a significant ideological transformation as well. Initially regarded as a direct competitor to the small-government Free Democrats, the AfD has since adopted the tried-and-tested electoral approach of other rightwing populist actors by embracing welfare chauvinist positions, linking the survival of the welfare state to that of the nation state. In doing so it has made substantial inroads into the blue-collar electorate, in some German states even overtaking the Social Democrats as the preferred choice of the working class.
The Alternative for Germany and the Working Class
The German Party System Before and After the 2017 Federal Election
Frank Decker and Philipp Adorf
The 2017 federal election illustrated the transformation of Germany’s political party system with six parties managing to enter the Bundestag. With the Christian and Social Democrats finally coming to an agreement almost half a year after the election, a grand coalition is set to govern for two consecutive terms for the very first time. The Alternative for Germany’s success also signaled the definite parliamentary establishment of right-wing populism in Germany. Multiparty coalitions that bridge ideological gulfs as the political fringe has grown in size are a new reality that must be accommodated. The 2017 election and subsequent arduous negotiations point towards a period of uncertainty and further upheaval for Germany’s party system.