Why aren't these parties considered a possibility to form a coalition government after the 2021 elections? They all represent the right-wing in Germany, and they have enough seats for a majority if they were combined. It seems to me like they have more in common with each other than coalitions involving SPD and the CDU.

The AfD is the Alternative for Deutschland (Germany).
The FDP is the Free Democratic Party of Germany.
The SPD is the Social Democratic Party of Germany.
The CDU is the Christian Democratic Union of Germany.


7 Answers 7


The AFD is a political pariah in big part because of its stench of right extremism (one very prominent member can legally be called a fascist), which is a very big deal in Germany.
Any form of cooperation with the AFD currently carries huge political penalties and even the mere suggestion of a potential coalition would amount to complete and utter political suicide for any political party/candidate.

An example for such a political fallout would be the Thuringian government crisis of 2020, in which a FDP politician was elected Minister President with the combined votes of CDU, FDP and AFD. He had to resign days later and both CDU and FDP received massive blow back.

Therefore when looking at the potential coalitions you have to pretend that the AFD doesn't exist, which is exactly what most analysts and newspapers are doing in their graphics, because such coalitions are currently politically impossible.

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    This is a much better answer than the accepted one. In the current political climate, it is totally irrelevant whether the politicial suggestions of the AfD would match with those from the CDU/FDP or not. They are not even considering a coalition with the AfD out of principle.
    – quarague
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 7:03

There is a "firewall" against the AfD in the German parliament and the CDU is a big part of it. Laschet in particular has vowed to uphold it.

In practical terms of recent relevance, the AfD has campaigned against Merkel and against Covid-19 measures. Laschet is seen as Merkel's hand-picked successsor. The AfD are also pretty far from the CDU on other matters, according to AP:

AfD opposes school mask requirements and other government coronavirus policies, does not see climate change as a human-made problem, has a cozy relationship with Russia and wants Germany to quit the European Union.

Also, the FDP leadership mentioned starting coalition talks with the Greens around a "progressive core"... but said nothing about the AfD. Previously the FDP leader labeled the AfD "latently racist and authoritarian", and contraposed that with his party being in the "democratic center".

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    (+1) What about the AfD itself? Quite apart from the other parties willingness to consider it, it's not obvious it would make sense for them to join a coalition. Or have its leaders signalled some interest in breaking this "firewall" (individually or as a party)?
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 8:53
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    @Relaxed, that would probably make a very good follow-up question. One problem the AFD faces is that with regular successes in elections, they have become a part of the establishment they purport to criticise (albeit overall a rather less competent part that the established establishment). Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 11:02
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    This phrases the problem as simply being no political match between the AfD and CDU/FDP. That is not an accurate description of what is happening. All other political parties in parliament are currently boycotting the AfD out of principle, regardless of whether any individual policy matches with their own policies or not.
    – quarague
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 7:06
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    AfD is also openly anti-gay and anti-feminist (so-called "family values") if you read the small print. Parodies imagine them reintroducing the three Ks for women... This makes them toxic for the younger generation.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 7:11
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    @leftaroundabout it does seem to be typical for far-right parties to have "token minority" candidates, and for these token candidates to be screwed over by the party once it doesn't need them any more. Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 8:10

The original AfD formed back in what was known as the debt crisis when conservative economists criticised the ruling coalition in general but Merkel in particular for 'saving Greece' and others; their criticism essentially implied that German money was being used to pay the Greek national debt which they strongly objected to. On this platform, they were elected to the European Parliament in 2014. Starting around this time with the rise of Pegida, anti-immigration voiced in the party became stronger which culminated in the original party splitting in 2015. With the arrival of larger numbers of refugees in late 2015, the AfD became more and more associated with far-right, nationalist positions such as exiting the EU, closing the borders, sending back refugees and not accepting any more, etc. Importantly, they once again put the blame for what they saw as a terrible situation for Germany squarely on Merkel.

Thus, until at least this election the AfD would under no circumstances have accepted any cooperation with the party of Merkel, although they hinted numerous times that they would welcome cooperation with a more conservative, de-Merkelised CDU. This is especially reflected in the hunting comment that Johannes_K cites in his answer.

In addition, the other parties saw the direction the AfD was taking and drew up a 'firewall' against it as correctly highlighted by Fizz. When the parties after the election are saying that they will 'discuss with all democratic parties to determine whether we can form a government', the word democratic serves to explicitly exclude the AfD from the list of options. What happens if they aren't careful can be seen in Thuringia as outlined by AuronTLG.

An episode from one of the recent pre-election TV debates of the chancellor candidates highlights this. It is necessary to mention, that the CDU has also excluded cooperating or forming a coalition with the Left Party (die Linke). This tidbit should surprise nobody, as they are on opposite ends of the spectrum of parties in parliament. Nevertheless, they found it important to explicitly rule out cooperation with said party during a party conference in 2018 (source in German) – the same decision also ruled out cooperations with the AfD. During the debate, Laschet, the CDU's chancellor candidate, was asked what his stance on Left Party and AfD was and whether he considered them equivalent. His answer was as follows:

Ich sage Ihnen. Wir werden mit [der Linken] nicht koalieren. [...] Ich sage der AfD. Mit ihnen kooperieren wir nicht, verhandeln wir nicht und werden nie koalieren. Wir tun alles, dass Sie nicht mehr in deutschen Parlamenten vertreten sind.

My translation:

I'm telling you. We will not form a coalition with [the Left Party]. [...] I'm telling the AfD. We will not cooperate, we will not negotiate and we will never form a coalition with you. We will do everything to ensure you will no longer be present in German parliaments.

And this is really the core of the issue: at least for the forseeable future the CDU sees the AfD as a party that should not even be in parliament, let alone anywhere near the government benches. Therefore, any coalition that would include both CDU and AfD is practically impossible.

Finally, and sort of as an addendum: Franz Josef Strauß, former Minister President of Bavaria and long-time leader of the CSU, the CDU's sister party which is only active in Bavaria, is often quoted as having said: 'Only the wall can be to the right of the CSU!' Whether he uttered that phrase exactly like that I don't know, but he uttered something in a very similar vein in 1987:

... Ich habe erklärt – im Übrigen in vollem Einvernehmen mit Helmut Kohl, der sich ja genau zu dieser Formulierung bekannt hat, die hundertmal mit mir besprochen hat –, dass es rechts von der CDU/CSU keine demokratisch legitimierte Partei geben darf. Wir denken hier nicht, natürlich, an rechtsradikale Narren, mit denen wir gar nichts zu tun haben wollen, aber an normale, demokratische, konservative Kräfte, die bei uns ihre politische Heimat behalten müssen.

My translation:

I have declared – by the way, in full agreement with Helmut Kohl, who affirmed exactly this phrasing which he discussed with me hundreds of times – that there must not be a democratically legitimised party to the right of the CDU/CSU. Of course, we are not talking about extreme-right fools with whom we want nothing to do, but about normal, democratic, conservative forces that should continue finding their political home with us.

One may debate how accurate a statement from the late 80's may be (at the time, the extreme-right Republikaner (Republicans) were one the rise, made it into a couple of state parliaments but never into the Bundestag), but to the best of my knowledge it has never formally been retracted and so the view of the CDU/CSU should be that the AfD falls under these 'extreme-right fools'.


While some AfD politicians are former CDU members and while it may seem that a few AfD positions could theoretically be reconciled with CDU or FDP objectives to some extent, fundamental differences remain. The AfD's goal to leave the European Union is one of them. However, the divide between the AfD and all other major German parties is not only due to different positions on a given issue. First, there is doubt if the AfD is willing or able to restrain more extreme right-wing tendencies in its own ranks such as those voiced by the informal "Flügel" subgroup. Furthermore, the AfD has challenged a consensus on mutual respect in political discourse: Alexander Gauland's "Wir werden sie jagen" (we will hunt them) statement after the 2017 election has set the tone here.

Reluctance towards the AfD as a potential partner may also be due to the impression that it is focused on protest rather than on positively developing realistic political objectives. While some AfD leaders have indeed stated in the past that they were not (yet) interested in forming a government, this may not be true for all representatives, regions or election periods.

So, in a nutshell, it is not just a question of positions, but also (though definitely not only) a question of style.


Just a couple more soft reasons, besides the AfD being considered far-right:

  • They started out as the German equivalent of UKIP (or more concretely: against financial aid for Greece during the banking crisis, as @Jan+@IMSoP point out). And became only more anti-EU since. (Still advocate for abolishing the Euro). A sentiment that isn't shared by any other party.
  • There's not much voter support in the western states, so couldn't be considered fit for a broad coalition.
  • Their party manifest is covertly against social programs for economically disadvantaged (funnily enough the voter base they're pandering to). Some of which wouldn't even work with the neo-liberal FDP.
    • Fun fact: the AfD always had the highest ratio of academics (40% of representatives are). Albeit it's probably the other half of the party that's driving the parliamentary disdain.
  • And their whole public discourse is dominated by in-fighting ("comprised of failed personalities"), lots of splinter members and succession attempts. Which you know, doesn't bode well for coalition considerations.
  • Nobody wants to legitimize anti-vaxxers (which the AfD strongly, but ineffectively lobbied to).
  • Same for denialism around climate change, which partly dominated the election. (Though such fringe opinions exist in CDU and FDP as well.)
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    They are also the only party denying that climate change has anthropogenic causes.
    – Roland
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 10:46
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    @gnasher729 I wouldn't say that. You find all sorts of opinions in a population of sufficient size. The main argument of the deniers is that climate change is natural and not caused by anthropogenic emissions of GHGs. This is already an extremely fringe position in the scientific community and AFAIK it's the position of the AFD. I'm not aware of any serious German parties claiming there is no climate change.
    – Roland
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 8:11
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    Saying they "started out as the German equivalent of the Brexit party" misrepresents the history of both parties. The article you link to refers to AfD adopting an anti-EU stance in 2021, having "built its base on opposing Chancellor Angela Merkel's migration policy". Meanwhile, the "Brexit Party" was a short-lived single-issue party during the Brexit negotiations, now renamed "Reform UK"; you may be thinking of the UK Independence Party, which campaigned against the EU for years and influenced the ruling Conservatives to call the Brexit referendum, and has now all but collapsed.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 9:58
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    @IMSoP The AfD actually started out as a 'Don't save Greece with our money' party which was about as anti-EU as anybody was prepared to go back then.
    – Jan
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 15:50
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    Sorry, as anti-EU as anybody in Germany was prepared to go back then. (Excluding the fringe edge, but yeah, that qualifier is necessary.)
    – Jan
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 15:58

This answer is entirely based on opinion - because (public) opinion matters here. Note I cannot really comment on former East Germany because I have not recently spoken to enough east germans to have a picture of what their opinions are.

While the AFD does not position itself as an openly radical party like "Der III. Weg" or the NPD, Germans see the AFD as a party that either does not sufficiently distance themselves from groups and movements regarded as extremist/radical (eg the Reichsbürger which question or deny the validity/authority of the german constitution, the Querdenker which one could describe as an unfortunate mix of libertarianism and Reichsbürger elements, various groups that do not only debate covid measures but try to manipulate the debate by questioning the validity of covid related science and statistics, or the anti-immigration Pegida movement), or that tacitly/clandestinely supports these groups.

In a time where the political acceptability of conservativism, classical liberalism and the non-extremist right wing are already facing public debate, parties that share the common "right wing" designation are under the same scrutiny. The last thing a party advocating policies that are considered "currently debated as to their legitimacy" would want is associating with a party advocating policies that are widely viewed as "going too far" in popular opinion.

Before the ballots, not distancing themselves from the AFD strongly would likely have turned into a self fulfilling prophecy for conservative/centrist-right parties, shifting the votership further right, and creating a need to fulfil that votership's expectations in order to stay politically relevant.

While one could argue that now the ballots are over, and parties can use and abuse their votes in coalition forming as they want, keeping a distance to the AFD and similar parties has been a part of the election campaigns, and reversing course here would likely be considered malicious and result in very heavy public protest and scrutiny. Also, it would certainly destroy any remaining trust in these parties for a long time among the significant part of populace and politicians who does not agree with the right wing anyway, making coalitions with left-centrist parties like the SPD very difficult in the future. It would also create much distrust in the coalition system, creating the impression that it is leveraged against voters intents, for a long time.

Also, what the SPD, FDP and CDU have in common or not hardly even matters: These are parties that have a long history of having been in governments, and had significant part in creating the status quo - which is considered debatable but certainly not catastrophic - , which earned them a kind of "mostly harmless" trusted status in the public eye. The AFD is quite new on the scene, marketing themselves as a disruptive instead of stable choice, and would not only be considered an unpalatable, but also unproven choice by the public.

Also, while a percentage of CDU/FDP voters might or might be secretly in favor of some AFD policies, and while Germany is a country with a secret ballot and taking this secrecy very seriously, there will be always voters that also want to advocate their favored party, their choices are well known in their social circles. For all of the reasons above, non-AFD voters voters do mostly not want to be associated with the AFD even indirectly.


There are a lot of good answers already, but one thing explains it quiet simply. If the established parties would consider making politics with the AfD, it would be considered as a sign of legitimization of the positions of the AfD. They fear doing that step, because at the moment the fact that there is a firewall holds a lot of people back voting for them, even if they agree with a lot of values that the AfD upholds.

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    Can you please provide proof (e.g. polls and the like) that there are a lot of people who would vote for AfD but don’t because other parties don’t legitimize them? Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 18:30

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