Germany: AfD backs election strategy of ‘targeted provocation’

Far-right party aims to tap distrust of establishment to raise voter share to 20%

North Rhine Westphalia  AfD  leader Marcus Pretzell with  party leader Frauke Petry. State police officials in NRW dismissed Pretzell’s smartphone app as “nonsense”. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

North Rhine Westphalia AfD leader Marcus Pretzell with party leader Frauke Petry. State police officials in NRW dismissed Pretzell’s smartphone app as “nonsense”. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

 

Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party hopes to score 20 per cent in next year’s federal election with a campaign of carefully targeted provocation.

AfD leaders meeting in Berlin on Friday agreed the party’s best hope in the September 2017 poll was to present itself to voters as a “collection reservoir for protest” against establishment parties.

“The AfD is doing well from its reputation as a breaker of taboos and as a protest party,” the strategy paper said, urging continued “careful planning” to “focus on being politically incorrect”.

To maximise their vote, AfD leader will concentrate on insecurities surrounding asylum, Islam, domestic security and the euro crisis – and by portraying established politicians as more interested in their own than voters’ wellbeing.

To date the party has pulled in large numbers of voters from the conservative right wing of chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. But the refugee crisis has seen the party broaden its political base and enter half of Germany’s 16 state parliaments. To continue pulling voters from across the political spectrum, the populist party plans to present itself as a “force of good” for German democracy.

“This argument should used above all with middle-class and centrist voters,” the paper adds, instructing officials to make regular shows of respect to parliament so that “it is not AfD that refuses to talk but the establishment parties”.

As AfD officials agreed their “targeted provocation” election programme in Berlin, an AfD politician in nearby Potsdam got a head start by attacking another MP as a “poor man’s Goebbels”.

‘Peddling fear’

Before next September’s federal election, the AfD is hoping for a strong performance in May’s state election in North Rhine-Westphalia, home to one in five Germans.

In a pitch for “insecure voters”, the party’s NRW leader Marcus Pretzell on Friday presented a smartphone app he said would allow users to inform themselves of local crime – and warn others.

“This app offers help in emergencies for citizens left alone by the state,” said Mr Pretzell.

State police officials in NRW dismissed the app as “nonsense”, saying it was less of an aid to citizens than to the AfD.

“The AfD are peddling fear and insecurity . . . in the hope of extracting political capital,” said Stephan Hegger of the NRW police union.

As Germany heads towards election year the AfD, founded three years ago as an anti-bailout party, has become the country’s third-strongest political force.

An ARD public television poll on Friday showed the party steady on 13 per cent, three points ahead of the Greens and four points ahead of the Left Party.

A week after Dr Merkel – with an eye on the AfD – signalled a tougher approach to refugees and a possible ban on burkas, the poll showed her CDU up one point to 36 per cent.