The German political system is known for its general stability. Generally there is not a great deal of fluctuation in terms of political parties.This however might be changing recently. After the success of the ‘Pirate Party’ over the last two years (bringing them into four state-parliaments), a new party has stepped onto the scene in April this year.
The Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland), short AfD was initiated by a group of (well-known) Euro-sceptics, academics as well as former members of Angela Merkel’s CDU party. The central and so far only recognizable party goal is the abolition of the euro in its current form. What should step in its place is however left vague. Both a smaller currency union involving mostly ‘Northern’ states as well as a return to the D-Mark seem to be under consideration. Exactly how such a transition would be handled is also not made clear. But the mantra of the party is, that there is an alternative to the Euro and that such an alternative should be embraced because the euro is bad not only for Germany, but for other European countries and Europe as a whole.
What are we to make of a party such as the AfD and how should we deal with it?
Does it have a real chance of success?
If success is defined as gaining seats in the German parliament (the Bundestag), for which a minimum of 5% of the vote is necessary, success is a possibility. At the moment polls see the AfD at around 3%, but support for its core political aim, the exit from the Euro, is supported by over 20% of Germans. It will thus be important to what extent these people cast their vote with ‘the Euro’ being the decisive issue for them.
How should other parties (and pro-Europeans) deal with it?
It does not make any sense to ridicule the party and its voters or to continuously portray it as extremely right-wing. This might even help the AfD and lead to a greater extent of protest votes from those wanting to send a message to the political establishment.
Free speech and the freedom to form political opinions should be truly valued, also when it comes to the AfD. In the long run, this can even help the cause of those wanting to maintain the Euro. John Stuart Mill held that we ought to allow those who disagree with us to speak up freely, because only in that way does what we hold to be right not become a ‘dead dogma’. For many the continued existence of the Euro has become a sort of a dead dogma. The mantra that the Euro is not to be abandoned because doing so would have disastrous consequences for Europe is more often said than explained. The challenge from groups such as the AfD should lead those in favour of the Euro to engage in an open argument. The logic for an abolition of the Euro is compellingly simple and the arguments for its continued existence are complex. But if we believe that they are right, we should not shy away from making use of them in open exchanges with the Euro’s critics.
Such an approach offers greater chances for success than the current dogmatic repetition of sound-bites.
(Next post hopefully on what the real consequences of Euro breakup would be 😉 )