German Elections 2013: Inside Germany’s Potential “Tea Party” Moment
Before Hillary Clinton came to office as United States secretary of state, Angela Merkel donned arguably the most famous pantsuits in modern government when she first took office as chancellor of Germany in 2005.
In a few weeks, the people of Germany are heading to the polls to decide whether Merkel will retain her title as chancellor, the head of the German government and the international face of the country. Merkel has held the position for the better half of the 2000s, a job that looked securely in her possession for the next few years until an uneventful, even boring, election cycle turned interesting.
Enter the political party looking to throw a wrench in Angela Merkel's plans to retain her title and raise the profile of Euroscepticism: Alternative for Germany (AfG). Founded earlier this year and rising in popularity among a budding group of German voters, AfG's central (and seemingly isolationist) objective is to systematically disable the euro system.
In fact, AfG's co-founder Bernd Lucke is currently on the campaign trail trying to convince his fellow German voters that the euro currency is a main obstacle in the way of comprehensive European Union integration.
So, who are the people smitten with AfG's ideology?
According to the Economist, "fans of the Alternative tend to be: male, old, educated, well off but not super-rich, religious but without a denomination … and above all extremely pessimistic about the economy."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, AfG sits on the far right of the political spectrum. In a way, the movement resembles Germany's version of the very beginnings of America's Tea Party movement, which is still making waves in the United States.
Members of the new AfG party are believed to be "prone to conspiracy theories" and largely distrustful of the media. Since launching, party members seem to actively avoid participating in political polls, a dangerous prospect for Merkel because it is difficult to understand how many people will vote with AfG on September 22.
In fact, most of Chancellor Merkel's tenure has been defined by political consistency and a defiant effort to sustain Germany's status quo as an economic, financial, and political model for the world (read: not hand-holding to the weaker European Union countries or letting Germany be a euro-lending machine). For the most part, it seems that German citizens are fine with Merkel's external approach and stark reputation among members of the international community (namely France), as well as members of her own government across the political spectrum. The majority, at least for the time being, appreciate the consistency of Merkel's policies, though there is a growing population seeking to institutionalize their desire for change.
Given the infancy of the AfG movement, it is unlikely that the party will gain many seats this time around. However, their main goal is to take votes away from Chancellor Merkel, the Christian Democrats (CDU), and her broader coalition. This bodes well for Merkel's chief opponent in the election, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) — and its candidate, Peer Steinbrueck.
Watch this space.