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Alternative für Deutschland Surges in European Elections

State of the Union: The populist party placed second, ahead of the governing Social Democrats.
AfD signs in Dresden
Credit: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Germany’s June 9 elections saw the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party make sizable gains, increasing its vote share from 11 to 15.9 percent and picking up four more seats in the European Parliament over its 2019 results. This left the AfD as the second-largest German party after the center-right CDU/CSU, and ahead of the governing Social Democratic Party (SPD). 


The AfD did remarkably well with both younger voters and the working class. Among voters aged 16 to 24, the AfD won 17 percent of the vote, tying with the CDU. With blue-collar workers, the AfD trounced the other parties with 34 percent of the vote, defeating the CDU by 10 points, and the SPD (historically the dominant working-class party) by 22 points.

These gains came after a campaign marked by attempts to isolate the AfD. In January, a left-wing news outlet funded by the German government, Correctiv, falsely reported that various AfD leaders had organized a conference to discuss the deportation of millions of Germans with migrant backgrounds. While Correctiv later retracted its claims, the claims were used as the basis for calls to ban the AfD. Later in the campaign, the AfD suspended a candidate for his controversial comments about World War II, and despite disciplining the responsible member, the AfD was kicked out of the Identity and Democracy group of the European Parliament.

In one of the more astounding instances of the German state interfering against populists, the AfD is legally and openly spied on by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.  

Reacting to the AfD’s success, Elon Musk tweeted that he did not feel that the AfD’s policies were extremist, and thus the use of the “far-right” label to describe them was incorrect.

Based on the election results, it is safe to say that a large and increasing number of Germans, especially among the young and working class, agree with Musk.