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The AfD’s euroscepticism won’t appeal to German voters

Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party co- leaders Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla. Credit: Getty

July 16, 2023 - 11:30am

A political movement that feels the wind in its sails can have a tendency to overreach, especially if it misinterprets the actual motivations of its voters. Marine Le Pen discovered this during France’s presidential elections last year, when voters found her positions on immigration appealing, but did not share her Euroscepticism.

With the upcoming elections to the European Parliament in 2024, it looks as if the German AfD is about to make the same mistake. In its programme for the election, the party calls for the ordered “dissolution” of the European Union, in order to fully embrace the “potential of nation-states and rebuild the bridge to the east.” To put it more provocatively, the AfD wants to orient Europe towards Moscow rather than Brussels or Washington. 

AfD leader Tino Chrupalla appears convinced that Right-wing parties in Austria and Hungary would support this undertaking, and in doing so shows a pretty shocking lack of understanding of how EU policies are constructed in these countries. After Greece and Poland, Hungary is the largest receiver of EU funds — and many of the quarrels between Viktor Orbán and the EU are driven by the Hungarian desire to remain eligible for money from Brussels.

It is therefore highly unlikely that Budapest — which has received significant exemptions from European sanctions on Russian oil — would support a dissolution of the European Union, not to mention the Russophilia of the AfD. Even Orbán, who likes to fire up the base with big talk about taking on EU bureaucrats, is not seriously considering leaving the bloc. 

Just like Fidesz in Hungary, Austria’s Right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) knows that there is no real appetite to leave the EU. Despite an enduring Brussels-scepticism, 70% of Austrians still want to remain part of the EU, and only 9% think that Russia is a trustworthy partner. 

Criticising the EU and its institutions has a long tradition among the continent’s Right-wing parties, and some of them are sincerely arguing for reform and for the redistribution of competencies between Brussels and its member states. But a dissolution — ordered or otherwise — is not a serious proposal from any of them. The AfD should be careful not to confuse its status as a preferred protest vote for a wholesale embrace of all its positions by the electorate. The main driver of its current impressive performance in the polls is a deep dissatisfaction with the sitting government and the lack of a genuine conservative party in Germany, not the desire for a political revolution.

Alice Weidel, Chrupalla’s co-leader in the party, has already pushed back against the dissolution idea, insisting that it was included in the election strategy “by accident” and that she does not support the position. Rather than clarifying her position on party policy, however, this instead demonstrates that the AfD is far from unified, with serious disagreement on fundamental issues. One is reminded of the history of the German Greens, who have also consistently struggled with their realist and fundamentalist wings. Ultimately, under Joschka Fischer, the realo-wing prevailed, making the party fit for office. Will the same happen with the AfD? Don’t rule it out.

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Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago

This is depressing, for it suggests that the public in too many European states are either too blind or too cowardly or too ill informed to know what is good for them. None of the disasters predicted by the anti-democrats of “Remain” came true for Britain; all the actual disasters from which we are currently suffering are either home grown – for example “Lockdown”, gee thanks, Johnson! – or the consequence of leaving EU legislation in place.
Second, the EU, itself under the thumb of open-borders neo-Marxists, is a constant threat to the integrity of Poland, Hungary and – indeed – every other EU state. So what should the AfD do? Lie to the electorate? Compromise? Soft-peddle? And if they do, isn’t that precisely – but precisely – the origin of our political corruption and collapse?
It is dilemmas such as these which prompt despair. All we can do is slow the many diseases which are poisoning our world – our little, European world – because the cancer of neo-communism has metastasised and infected the whole body.

michael harris
michael harris
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

They should ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’.
In contrast to most present day politicians who speak stickly and carry a big soft (good example Boris J.). And who are more and more despised for it

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  michael harris

True about the shameless fathead, Johnson. As for your other remarks, are you advocating a less than transparent approach? Tricky. And likely to produce grave upsets.
I suppose they might run on a moderate Eurosceptic ticket, ie “We’ll fight inside the EU alongside Hungary for firm borders,”; and “A referendum lock will be placed on any further cession of powers to Brussels.”
It might work. Then again, it might alienate those who want a more robust approach. But really, that such worm like dodges should still be necessary! Oh, well…

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Meloni also gave up her anti-EU stand. Guess, many Europeans don’t like the Brussels bureaucrats, but like the idea of an open border Europe, so people can work and live easily in any of European countries and do business without the red tape of borders. The UK is different as it was always contained by its natural borders as an island and was fiercely independent. But most of the borders on the European Continent were flexible over its thousand years of history. The Problem is how to contain the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. The countries in the EU will eventually have to make a decision to either become a United States of Europe with an elected President and government or become a loser Association, a “Europe des Patries” as de Gaulle called it, and will have to live with borders again.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
11 months ago

“unelected bureaucrats” are everywhere unelected as they should be.
Every major CATASTROPHIC decision during my lifetime by UK was made by elected politicians, not whitehall or EU. Just a short list:
1) Light Touch Regulation of the City
2) Housing Policy
3) Non EU Migration
4) Iraq
5) Libya

But, yes! Let’s blame EU.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Light touch regulation worked. It stopped working when Labour, in a pro EU spirit, ruined it. Housing was fine until an EU inspired Labour government decided to add millions to the population through migration. Your subsequent reference to migration therefore is, like most of your remarks, disingenuous. As for Libya, that was carried out in tandem with France under the blessing of Obama, so neither the EU nor the left are blameless. As for Iraq, it is no excuse as far as the EU is concerned that other governments or political forces make terrible blunders. Indeed, such an attempted excuse is facile and inadequate.

Last edited 11 months ago by Simon Denis
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

See above

Last edited 11 months ago by Simon Denis
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

See above.

Last edited 11 months ago by Simon Denis
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

See above.

Last edited 11 months ago by Simon Denis
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

See above.

Last edited 11 months ago by Simon Denis
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Light touch regulation worked. It stopped working when Labour, in a pro EU spirit, ruined it. Housing was fine until an EU inspired Labour government decided to add millions to the population through migration. Your subsequent reference to migration therefore is, like most of your remarks, disingenuous. As for Libya, that was carried out in tandem with France under the blessing of Obama, so neither the EU nor the left are blameless. As for Iraq, it is no excuse as far as the EU is concerned that other governments or political forces make terrible blunders. Indeed, such an attempted excuse is facile and inadequate.

Last edited 11 months ago by Simon Denis
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

See above

Last edited 11 months ago by Simon Denis
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

See above.

Last edited 11 months ago by Simon Denis
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

See above.

Last edited 11 months ago by Simon Denis
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

See above.

Last edited 11 months ago by Simon Denis
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago

They will have that decision made for them, clearly. Have you noticed? Salvini was able to stop the boats, Meloni cannot, so we can only conclude that Italian governmental power has been further reduced. Is there any current European government which either reflects the choice of the electorate or, if it does in principle, is able to carry that choice into policy? No.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
11 months ago

“unelected bureaucrats” are everywhere unelected as they should be.
Every major CATASTROPHIC decision during my lifetime by UK was made by elected politicians, not whitehall or EU. Just a short list:
1) Light Touch Regulation of the City
2) Housing Policy
3) Non EU Migration
4) Iraq
5) Libya

But, yes! Let’s blame EU.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago

They will have that decision made for them, clearly. Have you noticed? Salvini was able to stop the boats, Meloni cannot, so we can only conclude that Italian governmental power has been further reduced. Is there any current European government which either reflects the choice of the electorate or, if it does in principle, is able to carry that choice into policy? No.

michael harris
michael harris
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Transparency is a virtue, we are told.. But the public may not want to see your ‘parts’. Still those same voters may be glad you still have them and may use them. That’s the understanding, the deal. You can look down your nose at ‘worm like dodges’ but, while you do so, events may pass you by. Oh, well…

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Meloni also gave up her anti-EU stand. Guess, many Europeans don’t like the Brussels bureaucrats, but like the idea of an open border Europe, so people can work and live easily in any of European countries and do business without the red tape of borders. The UK is different as it was always contained by its natural borders as an island and was fiercely independent. But most of the borders on the European Continent were flexible over its thousand years of history. The Problem is how to contain the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. The countries in the EU will eventually have to make a decision to either become a United States of Europe with an elected President and government or become a loser Association, a “Europe des Patries” as de Gaulle called it, and will have to live with borders again.

michael harris
michael harris
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Transparency is a virtue, we are told.. But the public may not want to see your ‘parts’. Still those same voters may be glad you still have them and may use them. That’s the understanding, the deal. You can look down your nose at ‘worm like dodges’ but, while you do so, events may pass you by. Oh, well…

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  michael harris

True about the shameless fathead, Johnson. As for your other remarks, are you advocating a less than transparent approach? Tricky. And likely to produce grave upsets.
I suppose they might run on a moderate Eurosceptic ticket, ie “We’ll fight inside the EU alongside Hungary for firm borders,”; and “A referendum lock will be placed on any further cession of powers to Brussels.”
It might work. Then again, it might alienate those who want a more robust approach. But really, that such worm like dodges should still be necessary! Oh, well…

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Bernie Sanders said that open borders were a ‘Koch brothers policy’, implying that it’s quite strange for the Left to support it, and it’s not in-keeping with traditional leftist goals.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

1) There is no greater argument against leaving EU than Brexit. You might believe in your facts but the rest of the world doesn’t see Brexit as a success story – what did Farage say about it?
2) From 97-16 c.60% of all migrants in UK were non EU citizens – tell me who was responsible for the policy? Who is responsible now?
3) AfD is not complaining about immigrants for Orthodox Serbia.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Oh, it’s you – the obsessive sophist. You begin with assertion, proceed with insult and dodge the truth. How typical. Hawk your debating points elsewhere, most of us on these threads have seen through them.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Confirmation bias.
How do you define ‘success’. It’s only been 3 years, and many of the benefits voters wanted – national sovereignty, increased democratic pressures on uk mps – have already happened.
It’s not been a success if you run a small export business who’s main customer base was in the EU & expect the rest of the UK economy to revolve around you.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Oh, it’s you – the obsessive sophist. You begin with assertion, proceed with insult and dodge the truth. How typical. Hawk your debating points elsewhere, most of us on these threads have seen through them.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Confirmation bias.
How do you define ‘success’. It’s only been 3 years, and many of the benefits voters wanted – national sovereignty, increased democratic pressures on uk mps – have already happened.
It’s not been a success if you run a small export business who’s main customer base was in the EU & expect the rest of the UK economy to revolve around you.

Chipoko
Chipoko
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Why do the chattering classes inevitably refer to the hard-right, but never, apparently the hard-left? I guess the answer is probably obvious to those in the know.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Chipoko

Because the chattering classes are under the thumb of the hard left. First, the left moves among them like sharks among fish. Second, the sharks now run the institutions and control all patronage. As an example of this, experienced authors and journos are nowadays told how to write by twenty-something desk-editors in the name of “sensitivity”. No new male or white or middle aged authors are being taken on. Third, the chatterboxes are viscerally loyal to these institutions. They will swallow the most foetid poison so long as it drips from the cracked bottles called “BBC” or “National Trust” or “Civil Service”. And there, I think in a reasonably small nutshell, is the problem. A revolution against all this would actually rescue the poor chatterboxes, who offer a sad spectacle of collective Stockholm Syndrome.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Chipoko

Because the chattering classes are under the thumb of the hard left. First, the left moves among them like sharks among fish. Second, the sharks now run the institutions and control all patronage. As an example of this, experienced authors and journos are nowadays told how to write by twenty-something desk-editors in the name of “sensitivity”. No new male or white or middle aged authors are being taken on. Third, the chatterboxes are viscerally loyal to these institutions. They will swallow the most foetid poison so long as it drips from the cracked bottles called “BBC” or “National Trust” or “Civil Service”. And there, I think in a reasonably small nutshell, is the problem. A revolution against all this would actually rescue the poor chatterboxes, who offer a sad spectacle of collective Stockholm Syndrome.

michael harris
michael harris
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

They should ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’.
In contrast to most present day politicians who speak stickly and carry a big soft (good example Boris J.). And who are more and more despised for it

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Bernie Sanders said that open borders were a ‘Koch brothers policy’, implying that it’s quite strange for the Left to support it, and it’s not in-keeping with traditional leftist goals.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

1) There is no greater argument against leaving EU than Brexit. You might believe in your facts but the rest of the world doesn’t see Brexit as a success story – what did Farage say about it?
2) From 97-16 c.60% of all migrants in UK were non EU citizens – tell me who was responsible for the policy? Who is responsible now?
3) AfD is not complaining about immigrants for Orthodox Serbia.

Chipoko
Chipoko
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Why do the chattering classes inevitably refer to the hard-right, but never, apparently the hard-left? I guess the answer is probably obvious to those in the know.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago

This is depressing, for it suggests that the public in too many European states are either too blind or too cowardly or too ill informed to know what is good for them. None of the disasters predicted by the anti-democrats of “Remain” came true for Britain; all the actual disasters from which we are currently suffering are either home grown – for example “Lockdown”, gee thanks, Johnson! – or the consequence of leaving EU legislation in place.
Second, the EU, itself under the thumb of open-borders neo-Marxists, is a constant threat to the integrity of Poland, Hungary and – indeed – every other EU state. So what should the AfD do? Lie to the electorate? Compromise? Soft-peddle? And if they do, isn’t that precisely – but precisely – the origin of our political corruption and collapse?
It is dilemmas such as these which prompt despair. All we can do is slow the many diseases which are poisoning our world – our little, European world – because the cancer of neo-communism has metastasised and infected the whole body.

Peter D
Peter D
11 months ago

All these far right parties seem to be about people in their own country sticking up for themselves. Have we really come this far that they are labeled extreme for this?

I think that the EU is living on borrowed time just like Putin is. I am not sure who will go first. Probably Putin. Whatever comes afterwards, needs to be part of Europe‘s future. Maybe not best friends, but not enemies either.

The AfD has to walk a fine line between the EU on one side and Russia on the other side but it is the German people who need to come first in their equation. This is something that German political parties have failed to do since the end of the war.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

Quite so. Let’s hope they manage it.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

Quite so. Let’s hope they manage it.

Peter D
Peter D
11 months ago

All these far right parties seem to be about people in their own country sticking up for themselves. Have we really come this far that they are labeled extreme for this?

I think that the EU is living on borrowed time just like Putin is. I am not sure who will go first. Probably Putin. Whatever comes afterwards, needs to be part of Europe‘s future. Maybe not best friends, but not enemies either.

The AfD has to walk a fine line between the EU on one side and Russia on the other side but it is the German people who need to come first in their equation. This is something that German political parties have failed to do since the end of the war.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
11 months ago

As I’ve said before, I don’t think European voters are moving to the Right. (Nor are British voters moving to the Left.) It’s simply a widespread disgust with the incompetence of the incumbents.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
11 months ago

Elected by the people

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
11 months ago

Elected by the people

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
11 months ago

As I’ve said before, I don’t think European voters are moving to the Right. (Nor are British voters moving to the Left.) It’s simply a widespread disgust with the incompetence of the incumbents.

AC Harper
AC Harper
11 months ago

Wikipedia: “Germans elect their members of parliament with two votes. The first vote is for a direct candidate, who is required to receive a plurality vote in their electoral district. The second vote is used to elect a party list in each state as established by its respective party caucus.”
So I expect that a party that appeals as a protest vote, even if their policies are less enticing, might still end up with a significant presence in Government.

Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
11 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Not in government, as every other party has vowed never to go into coalition with them. But certainly in the legislature: in 2021 the AfD got 83 seats out of 736 in the Bundestag. In the previous election they had even been the largest opposition party, since the SPD and CDU/CSU formed a Grand Coalition.

Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
11 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Not in government, as every other party has vowed never to go into coalition with them. But certainly in the legislature: in 2021 the AfD got 83 seats out of 736 in the Bundestag. In the previous election they had even been the largest opposition party, since the SPD and CDU/CSU formed a Grand Coalition.

AC Harper
AC Harper
11 months ago

Wikipedia: “Germans elect their members of parliament with two votes. The first vote is for a direct candidate, who is required to receive a plurality vote in their electoral district. The second vote is used to elect a party list in each state as established by its respective party caucus.”
So I expect that a party that appeals as a protest vote, even if their policies are less enticing, might still end up with a significant presence in Government.

Graff von Frankenheim
Graff von Frankenheim
11 months ago

It can’t be that difficult to grasp – even (or especially) if you’re a German – that it is not a great idea to submit and transfer all decision making to an unaccountable bureaucratic tyranny. I hope the AfD get’s its act together and that the Germans exit the EU soon.

Last edited 11 months ago by Graff von Frankenheim
Graff von Frankenheim
Graff von Frankenheim
11 months ago

It can’t be that difficult to grasp – even (or especially) if you’re a German – that it is not a great idea to submit and transfer all decision making to an unaccountable bureaucratic tyranny. I hope the AfD get’s its act together and that the Germans exit the EU soon.

Last edited 11 months ago by Graff von Frankenheim
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
11 months ago

Alice is rather lovely?

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
11 months ago

OMG are the Germans seriously considering getting into the Russian Bear’s bed? Those soldiers who died on the Eastern front must be turning in their graves.

Last edited 11 months ago by Jacqueline Burns
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
11 months ago

German knowhow with Russian resources could spell the end for American hegemony.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
11 months ago

German knowhow with Russian resources could spell the end for American hegemony.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
11 months ago

OMG are the Germans seriously considering getting into the Russian Bear’s bed? Those soldiers who died on the Eastern front must be turning in their graves.

Last edited 11 months ago by Jacqueline Burns
Stephen Quilley
Stephen Quilley
11 months ago

It’s called the long game. EU will eventually trip over itself one too many times. All mainstream parties will be tainted. If this coincides with economic implosion/war….which is not unlikely, the AFD will be perfectly positioned (along with Le Pen and compaNY) to pick up the baton.
As for the Greens, their realism has made them indistinuiishable from the SPD. SO what’s the point? They are now a party of eco-modernists (and transhumanists I might add) – absolutely wedded to unending growth by virtue of their non-negotiable commitment to liberal cosmopolitan politics (individualism, mobility, gender woo, CRT etc) and to the EU itself – which requires growth for any kind of political legitimacy.
All they have to do is wait. I’m waiting also – and I can’t see any prosperous descent. Just an abyss

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
11 months ago

LOL
Nothing new, people always complain about politicians.
Poll after poll show that US citizens are angry with their elected representatives (every 2 years for the congress) and yet most of the members get comfortably elected! So what is the explanation? Well, people believe that their choice is right and rational but the OTHER SIDE is wrong and irrational.
Is EU to blame for US problems?
Blame EU for everything under the sun, hell blame me. But the reality is that most of the decisions that affect daily life (education, housing, job training, taxes, crime & punishment, non EU Migration) the responsibility lies with the national governments.
Plenty of people commenting here (you know who you are!) always like to claim that they would like to hold politicians to account…but EU membership…
Well soon enough they will have the chance to vote the Tories out. That is what “holding politicians to account” means. But I would guess that most Tory voters (the ones that comment here) are practitioners of the St. Augustine philosophy on chastity “just not yet”…but that will not stop them from screaming “hold politicians to account”..

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
11 months ago

LOL
Nothing new, people always complain about politicians.
Poll after poll show that US citizens are angry with their elected representatives (every 2 years for the congress) and yet most of the members get comfortably elected! So what is the explanation? Well, people believe that their choice is right and rational but the OTHER SIDE is wrong and irrational.
Is EU to blame for US problems?
Blame EU for everything under the sun, hell blame me. But the reality is that most of the decisions that affect daily life (education, housing, job training, taxes, crime & punishment, non EU Migration) the responsibility lies with the national governments.
Plenty of people commenting here (you know who you are!) always like to claim that they would like to hold politicians to account…but EU membership…
Well soon enough they will have the chance to vote the Tories out. That is what “holding politicians to account” means. But I would guess that most Tory voters (the ones that comment here) are practitioners of the St. Augustine philosophy on chastity “just not yet”…but that will not stop them from screaming “hold politicians to account”..