D5.1 Country Report | June 2021

Authors: Julia Glathe and Mihai Varga, Freie Universität Berlin

The report scrutinizes the role of the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which entered the German parliament as the largest opposition party in 2017 and has been driving far-right radicalisation and polarisation with its anti-immigrant agenda. Using the example of two regional election campaign spots, the report shows how the AfD ties in with existing mistrust in democratic institutions and creates the image of an existential threat to the German people, which supposedly can only be rescued by the AfD. The audience reaction to both spots confirms that the AfD indeed profits from widespread mistrust in democratic institutions and from a perception shared by many citizens of being overlooked by a government that for the last sixteen years has been represented by chancellor Merkel. This mistrust plays together with extreme racist attitudes among the public that are expressed in the context of immigration. The comments clearly show that it is not simply a dissatisfaction with an overly liberal migration policy or with social inequality, but radical racist positions, including the belief in conspiracies such as a ‘great replacement’, that explains the support of the AfD both in eastern and western Germany. Against this backdrop, the role of the AfD appears to be less that of normalizing radical messages, than that of echoing, reinforcing, and translating them into the political system to subvert the democratic institutions of the representative political system.