Radical Right-Wing Populists in Parliament

Examining the Alternative for Germany in European Context

in German Politics and Society
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Abstract

Founded just five years ago, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) represents the biggest opposition party in the German parliament. This article addresses three questions in European comparative perspective: What is the nature of the AfD as a relevant political party in the Bundestag? What ex plains its rise and popularity? What is the party’s behavior and impact in parliament, and on German politics in general? Examining platforms, the article first identifies programmatic and ideological shifts that have turned the AfD from a single issue anti-Euro party into the first radical right-wing (populist) party in parliament since the Nazi era. Second, voter analyses suggest that the AfD’s political radicalization has not undermined but increased its appeal. Third, the robust electoral support for radical positions makes it likely that the party seeks to further deepen political conflicts. Behavior in parliament shows that the party follows its European counterparts’ polarizing strategic orientations, reinforcing the Europeanization of a nativist sociocultural “counter-revolution.”

Contributor Notes

Lars Rensmann, PhD, is Professor of European Politics and Society at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, where he also serves as the Chair of the Department of European Languages and Cultures and leads the Chair Group European Politics and Society at the Centre of International Relations Research (cirr). Previously, he served as the Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Affairs at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy and as Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Recent publications include Rage and Revolt: Authoritarian Populism and Illiberal Democracy in Our Time (forth-coming); The Politics of Unreason: The Frankfurt School and the Origins of Modern Antisemitism (Albany, 2017). Email: l.p.rensmann@rug.nl