MS Risk Blog

Analysis on the German Far Right Party

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The Allianz für Deutschland (AfD) is a right-wing German political party which has been hit with numerous serious accusations and scandals over the last few months in the run up to the German general elections. These scandals have included accusations of one of the party’s members conducting espionage for the Chinese intelligence services, the AfD having pro-Russian ties and that the party is a suspected extremist group. Yet despite all these scandals and accusations, shockingly, the AfD has done surprisingly well in the election polls this year. As of June 2024, the party beat Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats party, placing the AfD second in the polls with 15.9% of the vote and securing 96 seats in Parliament. The conservative alliance of the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian won the elections in Germany, winning with 30% of the vote. How has the AfD managed to perform so well in the elections despite facing serious allegations and accusations? How concerning is this situation for German Intelligence and just how much of a security risk is the AfD? This analytical paper seeks analyse these questions and also seeks to explore the major scandals which have occurred against the AfD in the run up to the elections.

Since 2021, the BnV has labelled the AfD as a “suspected” extremist right wing group, with individual state associations and the party’s youth organisation designated as confirmed right wing extremist by the BNV. The BnV stated that the party had become a “case of interest” due to the AfD becoming increasingly radicalised in its views since its founding in 2013, specifically advocating anti-immigration and anti-Islam viewpoints. In 2017, AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland stated that after winning its first parliamentary seats, the AfD “vowed to fight an invasion of foreigners” after Germany accepted tens of thousands of migrants into the country. The AfD’s far right extremist views can also be exemplified by the fact that the party’s leader in the eastern state of Thuringia, Björn Höcke once described Berlin’s Holocaust memorial as a “monument of shame” and also called for a “180-degree turnaround” in Germany’s handling of is Nazi past. One of the party’s former leaders, Frauke Petry also commented that German police should “if necessary” shoot at migrants seeking to enter the country illegally. All these statements collectively show that the party has deeply rooted far right extremist views and rightfully justifies the BnV’s decision to classify the party as a suspected extremist group and put the party under surveillance. In 2022, the AfD was described as “suspected threat to democracy” after judges in Cologne stated that the party had not distanced itself from its most extreme members who are a part of the AfD’s hardline ‘Wing” faction led by Björn Höcke. The court ruled that that these members within the AfD still had “significant influence” in the party as they believed that the “German people should be kept ethnically intact and ‘outsiders’ should be excluded as far as possible”. The court ruled that these beliefs went against the basic law in Germany’s constitution.

The BnV sees far right extremist political parties as a threat to Germany due to the fact that they have “set themselves the goal of securing votes in local, state, federal and European elections… to gain influence in parliaments”. The AfD has certainly met this criteria as its goal is to promote its far right views and gain as much parliamentary seats and influence as possible. The fact that a suspected extremist party is looking to gain as much political influence as possible in the country firmly highlights that the AfD is a security risk for Germany and her intelligence agencies. In its run up to the elections, the AfD was hit by numerous scandals. One of the biggest occurred in November 2022 when the AfD had a secret meeting with Austrian right-wing extremists in which they discussed plans to deport millions of immigrants from Germany if the AfD were to be elected. During the meeting, the discussion centred around the far right concept remigration, with an Austrian right wing extremist suggesting that people should be deported an area of North Africa, to a “model state” that could accommodate up to two million people. News of the meeting broke out to the German press, inciting 200,000 people across the country to conduct mass protests against the AfD. The leak of the meeting also generated discussions which discussed the potential banning of the AfD. Other scandals occurred in the run up to the elections as well. For example, in April 2024, Jain G, an assistant to Maximilian Krah, who was the AFD’s top candidate at the time in the European elections was arrested on the suspicion of being an “employee of a Chinese secret service” and passing on information about the European Parliament to Chinese intelligence. Jain G was also accused of spying on Chinese opposition figures in Germany. On top of these damaging espionage allegations, Petr Bystron a top AfD candidate for the elections also faced accusations that he had received payments from Artem Marchevsky, who ran now debunked online Russian disinformation network portal known as the ‘Voice of Europe’ in return for spreading Russian propaganda. According to the Czech Security and Information Service (BIS), Mr Bystron met with Artem Marchevsky at least three times and can be heard in BIS audio tapes to be rusting and counting 20,000 (£17,000) which was given to him by Marchevsky. Bystron vigorously denied these claims prompting an investigation.

Another AfD scandal occurred when Maximilian Krah, was questioned by the FBI in March 2024 over suspicions of taking money from Kremlin agent to which he denied. The combination of the Chinese espionage scandal and the investigations of Krah and Bystron highlights that the AfD on top of being a suspected extremist political party also has alleged ties to both Russia and China, thus making the party an ever worrying security threat and concern for German Intelligence officials. Despite all these scandals that have cropped up for the AfD they have come second in the election polls. This should be concerning for German intelligence officials as the party will no doubt continue to rally for support and influence promoting its radical and extremist views in the near future. The scandals that have surrounded the AfD show that the party continues to be a grave security risk to Germany because they harbour extreme right wing views, have done unexpectedly well in the elections and have alleged ties to Russia and China. German Intelligence must continue to monitor the party even more closely both now and in the future in light of the numerous serious accusations that have reared their ugly head for the party.

Whilst the scandals against the AfD were seen by many at the time as very damaging to the party, the AfD has managed to use these scandals to gather more support in areas in which the party is the strongest in Germany, which is why they have done surprisingly well in the polls. The AfD’s performance in Germany’s elections shows that no matter the scale of the allegations and scandals, they can be spun around and vigorously denied and defended to secure as many votes as possible from those who find themselves the most aligned with the AfD’s policies. Scandals can make or break a party and for the AfD, the scandals have worked in their favour as evidenced by their second place position in the German election results.