Back in April I wrote this post saying that Angela Merkel needn’t worry about the AfD. I believe the claim was correct. And, before anyone says, “yes, but look at the FDP” - Merkel’s former junior coalition partners were polling at around 4% at the time, and if you look at voter flows from the past election, the FDP failed to enter parliament not because of the AfD.
On Sunday, by winning 4.7% of the vote the AfD fell short of the 5% threshold required to enter parliament. While it’s partly true that for a new party this is a fairly decent result, if looked at within the context of anti-euro and/or anti-EU parties in other countries the result is poor - and not just when compared to crisis-hit nations, like Italy or Greece, but also against similar messages in the Netherlands, Finland, the UK and to some extent Austria and France.
In other words, the size of the eurosceptic vote in Germany hasn’t significantly changed.
I believe this is because of two reasons:
1) the number of people who favour a return to the D-Mark is at all time lows and back at pre-crisis levels.
2) while most voters in Germany don’t trust EU institutions, more than 70% of Germans are satisfied with Chancellor Merkel’s handling of the euro crisis.
Simplified, there are fundamentally three factors that is driving the success, or failure, of anti-euro/EU parties:
1) national context (e.g. crisis)
2) trust in EU institutions
3) trust in national governments in dealing with EU related issues.
Anti-euro/EU parties succeed where at least 2/3 of these conditions are met.
It’s important to put aside ideological bias, hype and gut, and instead focus on actual data and to look at the information available within historical, and present, national context/s. Within this broader framework of an anti-euro/EU vote in Germany the AfD didn’t do well. This may of course change in time, and next year’s European elections (where at 3% the threshold to win seats is lower) will be a good indicator of any change in sentiment, but right now, as things stand, the AfD’s impact has been minimal and nowhere near reflective of the column inches that have been dedicated to the party.