The “Alternative for Germany” (Alternative für Deutschland, or AfD) has made headlines ever since its founding in 2013. After weathering a series of ideological fights, interpersonal conflicts, and defections — most of which played out in the public eye — the party achieved in only a few years what no other German party had since 1945: uniting all of the major political currents to the right of the so-called “Union” — the Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian ally, the Christian Social Union (CSU) — into one organization. The AfD also attracts support from Christian Democracy’s most conservative fringe, establishing an organic link between conservatism and the far right.
The AfD is currently represented in thirteen of Germany’s sixteen state parliaments — a seemingly unthinkable development only five years ago — and set to enter the national parliament, or Bundestag, later this year. But what kind of a party is the AfD? Why has it been able to shake up German politics, and what are the reasons behind its rise?