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ECPR Futures Lab 2020

The Effect of the Alternative for Germany on Political Communication in the German Federal Parliament: A Narrative Approach

Political Parties
Domestic Politics
Josefin Graef
Hertie School of Governance
Josefin Graef
Hertie School of Governance

This paper explores what effects the presence of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the German federal parliament (Bundestag) since September 2017 has had on patterns of political communication. It presents an analysis of the first 18 plenary sessions of the current legislative period, held from late October 2017 to early March 2018 following the constitution of the new Bundestag and preceding the swearing in of the new government. Taking a narrative approach to the study of political and, in particular, populist discourses, it demonstrates that compared to previous legislative periods the AfD’s presence leads to the increased use of the term ‘populism’ by MPs from both the AfD and the other five factions as well as populist communicative practices as a means to (re-)negotiate their individual and collective democratic identities. More specifically, what can be observed is a narrative competition concerning the practical manifestations of ‘populism’ and ‘democracy’ as well as perceptions of (democratic) rule- breaking associated with them. I argue that this dynamic facilitates the severance of the content of German parliamentary democracy from its communicative performance, with potentially negative consequences for the stability of (liberal) democracy in the ‘populist age’.
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