Finally, a political alternative for Germany

04 September 2013
Finally, a political alternative for Germany

Europenews.dk 4 September 2013
By Henrik Raeder Clausen

In Germany, the fresh political party Alternative für Deutschland (”An Alternative for Germany”) is causing unrest in German politics before the September 22nd elections. The party is inspired by the German government frequently stating that there is no alternative to the euro and the large bailout packages. AfD, loaded with professors in economics, asserts that there is – and popular resistance to the bailout policy gives the party a decent chance of beating the 5 % electoral threshold in Germany.

Now, starting a new political party is no small undertaking, not least in Germany, where constitutional clauses and the fear of history makes the task more daunting than anywhere else. Many, such as DIE FREIHEIT, Partei der Vernunft, Pro Deutschland and others have tried, and failed. The latest to get sufficient momentum to challenge the political establishment, The latest parties to have achieved this are the environmentalist Die Grünen, who entered parliament in 1983, and Die Linke, the successors to the communists ruling over DDR, who entered parliament in 2005.

Political violence in Germany History weighs heavily in Germany, where the fear of a resurgent national socialism is very tangible, even tough their crushing defeat in 1945 is almost 7 decades away. Any individual or party speaking for national sovereignty and the right to self-determination for the German people runs a substantial risk of being stigmatized as "right-wing populist”, frozen out, and physically assaulted by a variety of extremist (usually socialist) groups such as Antifa.

Attacks on meeting halls and public events have been frequent, and although German police does undertake some effort to protect smaller political parties from attacks, the public impression still is that one risks ending up in street battles if participating in events of non-conforming German political parties – in particular those daring to discuss taboo topics such as immigration policy or the role of Islam in society.

AfD has been no exception to this, suffering systematic destruction of campaign posters, multiple cases of harassment and attacks on street events, a trend that culminated on August 24th, when a group of 20-25 extremists attacked the venue and two of them stormed the platform where party chairman Professor Bernd Lucke was campaigning. This is causing the party to call for much more intensive police and legal action against the anti-democratic groups on the extreme left, whose unwillingness to play by the rules of democracy is causing severe harm to the freedom and fairness of German elections.

Who is leading AfD? It does take courage to start a non-orthodox political party in Germany, and one might expect that this would require persons used to physical confrontations, but Alternative für Deutschland is taking the diametrically opposite approach. Its 10-member leadership has a total of six doctorates between them, and two of them, including party chairman Bernd Lucke, hold professor seats. Much of this knowledge is in the field of economics, which lends extra weight to the AfD demand for Germany to leave the euro - in its current version - and focus on its own economical stability rather than helping others.

While AfD explicitly rejects the euro and speaks against bailout packages funded by the citizens, its euro-scepticism does not go so far as to leave the European Union entirely, as the British UKIP party desires. AfD speaks for a Germany under the Rule of Law, respecting the Basic Law (technically, Germany does not have a real Constitution), and remaining part of the united Europe as defined in the Treaty of Rome, not the Lisbon Treaty. Its wish for sovereignty is much more limited that what UKIP demands for Britain, and AfD does not speak about the role of Islam at all.

Will they make it? The great question for the September 22nd elections is: Will they beat the 5 % electoral threshold? Traditional polls predict 3-4 % for AfD, while Wahl-Radar 2013 – whose use of social media data enabled them to correctly predict the result of the Pirate Party in the latest Berlin elections – in a recent meta poll predicts that AfD will get a fairly sensational 7,6 % of the vote. Another metapoll, Wahl-o-Meter.com, quotes numbers over 10 percent, while an online poll (admittedly unscientific) by the large German tabloid Bild indicated a stunning 15 % for the upstart party.

This is all quite confusing, as the advent of social media on the Internet is causing headaches for traditional polling institutes, challenging the conventional science of predicting election outcomes. This is most significant for new parties with thin organizations and few, if any connections to mainstream media. New parties tend to use social media a lot, and studies have shown that high levels of activity on Facebook and Twitter does indeed translate into more votes on election day. Apparently, users of social media take greater interest in political ideas than habitual voters do, and tend to guide a substantial number of other voters.

Thus, the status quo of German politics may be in for quite an upheaval, due to a new party that dares speak for the sovereignty and self-determination of the German people, establishing a viable alternative to the "alternative-free” politics hitherto conducted by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her political life will not be easy if the election results, as is perfectly possible, grants Alternative für Deutschland the decisive votes on September 22nd. In that case, she may be forced to choose between a "Europe first” and a "Germany first” line – and if she chooses the latter, the German election may cause an even greater earthquake in Brussels than it does in Berlin.

Main campaign points of Alternative für Deutschland: 1) Leaving the euro, which is considered not to benefit Germany. 2) The right for each country to decide over its currency 3) No more taxpayer funding of bailout packages 4) Europe of the nations, with each parliament in control of the budget 5) Rule of Law, strengthening of citizens' rights and democracy. 6) Swiss-style direct democracy with referendums 7) Protecting the right to discuss controversial topics in public 8) Simplifying the tax system and paying back all public debt 9) Reforming and improving the educational system 10) Reform of the energy policy, in particular doing away with subsidies 11) Limiting immigration to only admit those with skills and willingness to integrate.