Government and International Relations Faculty Publications

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Originally published on November 8, 2017 in Volume 25, Issue 2 of Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe.

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DOI: 10.1080/25739638.2017.1399512


This article chronicles the AfD’s rightward repositioning and compares it with the programmatic development of three postwar German parties on the ideological wings. By highlighting factors that tilt the balance of power away from moderate reformers towards hardliners, this comparative analysis sheds light on the conditions that lead a relatively successful party on the ideological wings, such as the AfD, to radicalize its programme. Four variables stand out: whether party hardliners take the blame for the recent election loss; whether they offer a convincing programmatic and strategic alternative to the reformers; whether changes in party composition strengthen hardliners; and whether external factors enhance their weight within the party. The essay concludes that the AfD’s radicalization was unusual, but not exceptional. It is however too early to conclude that the Federal Republic’s distinctive institutions and political culture no longer impose significant costs on parties that shift their programmes away from the centre.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.