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The AfD has experienced a boost of popularity
like no other party, taking into account that it is a very young party which
was only founded in 2013. Back then, the AfD’s political course aimed at
defying the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the financial rescue missions
associated with it, ultimately leading to the European sovereign debt crisis. In 2014, the party just missed the 5 percent hurdle to participate in
the Bundestag, but for the first time the AfD was represented in 14 parliaments in Germany.

Frauke Petry as the chairman, the party shifted more and more towards
criticising immigration policies following the refugee crisis. In the Bundestag
elections in 2017 the AfD turned out to be the third most successful party with
12.6% of the votes after chancellor Merkel’s CDU (Christian Democratic Union)
and the SPD (Social Democratic Party Germany). Interestingly however, the AfD
was the only one among those three parties who actually gained votes compared
to the last elections in 2013. This came at a cost for other parties: Almost a
million of the AfD’s voters were former CDU-voters and half a million were from
the SPD. The other two parties had therefore enormous losses compared to their
election outcome of 2013,  receiving the
lowest election results in post-war history.

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AfD’s success in the past elections is explainable by several things. After the
failed attempt to ban the right-radical party NPD, many followers fled into the
loving arms of the AfD, which promised a more socially acceptable base for
their ideological thoughts. However, many voters are not supportive of the AfD
due to pure conviction for their agenda. Instead their increasing popularity is mainly fuelled by the
disappointment prominent in a large part of the Germany society. Over the last
decade, and especially during the refugee crisis in 2015, large parts of the
German society felt their needs were not being met by German politics. With an
inflow of refugees and attention increasingly payed on problems abroad, many
people sympathized with the AfD, who claimed to be the “party of the people”.
It was especially the AfD who took advantage of the social grievances in
Germany and further distanced themselves from Europe and chancellor Merkel’s
liberal, diplomatic immigration politics. In fact, the AfD’s big success is
rooted mainly in opposing Angela Merkel’s decision to open the German borders
to more than 1,6 Million refugees.

Interesting enough is, that the images of what the AfD
stands for are differing largely. While the AfD pursues a family friendly,
natively oriented image of themselves, its opponents declare the AfD to be a
modern, right-radical, yet socially accepted party, ideologically closely
connected to the NPD. Even though their anti-Semitic rhetoric leaves no doubt
about their ideological attitude, they seem to be less radical-right than
Germany’s NPD. Still, their right radical attitude becomes apparent in various
ways including through their presentation in the media and their own
presentation in their party platform.

In the media, the AfD makes no attempt to disguise their right
orientation by using ethically questionable statements and phrases. The most
stunning example comes from Frauke Petry herself, who claimed that the term
“racial” (German: voelkisch) needs to regain a positive connotation. The term
“racial” belongs to the body of thought of the national socialism in Germany
and describes the ideology that every ethnic group is in itself homogenous and
pure. Moreover, she lamented that the German agenda in dealing with refugees is
too “slack”. In her eyes, it would be of necessity if some politicians would
just grab their guns and shoot refugees right before the German border, as that
would help diminishing the stream of refugees coming to Germany. Even though
Petry resigned from the position of head of the party (ironically, she wanted
to distance the party from the far-right, which led to internal discrepancies),
her successors are just every bit as racist as her. Alexander Gauland, now the
deputy leader of the party, has put the last straw, when he claimed, that “no
one would want Jerome Boateng as their neighbour”. Boateng, firm part of the German national
football team, is born in Berlin as son of a Ghanaian father. Shortly afterward, Gauland claimed
the statement to be “a mistake”, that could happen to anyone, as he said.

            One could argue, that
how the AfD is portrait in the media, is of a biased kind and that the portrait
of the AfD that is supported by the media is just wrong. However, there are
also unarguable ideological and personal connections apparent to the right-radical
PEGIDA-movement and to the right extremist group “Identitaere Bewegung”
(Identity Movement), a German youth movement, that is as of late subject to
investigations of the Intelligence Service.

Also the AfD’s political agenda is shaped by
anti-Semitic and nationalistic body of thought. In the AfD’s party platform, many nativist statements can be found. Nativism refers to the idea that every nation should
be captured in one state and this forms one of several aspects constituting
racism. Everyone who is not part of the nation is perceived as a threat to the
political structure and harmony of that state. In the beginning preamble the AfD states its “wish to be and remain German at
heart”. In this sense, the AfD states to foster the “German
culture” which promotes Christian heritage, the German language, family
tradition and political order.

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