US News “Are you crazy?”: How the AfD almost damaged its party leader

19:40  29 november  2020
19:40  29 november  2020 Source:   tagesspiegel.de

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After his angry speech, a bitter dispute broke out over party leader Meuthen. His supporters only narrowly prevailed. What does that mean for the AfD?

Jörg Meuthen sitzt bei dem AfD-Bundesparteitag auf dem Podium. © Photo: dpa Jörg Meuthen sits on the podium at the AfD federal party conference.

It is an attempt to prevent the showdown after all. “Are you crazy to start a debate about the party chairman?” Calls out the AfD politician Norbert Kleinwächter to his party colleagues. But boos resound towards him. Many here in the hall want exactly that: a debate about AfD boss Jörg Meuthen and his “divisive demeanor”, ​​as some call it. This Sunday, Meuthen is sitting in the front of the stands, half of his face hidden behind a surgical mask. Apparently unmoved, he followed the tumult among the delegates.

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AfD party conferences are always good for a surprise. But what happened at the eleventh AfD federal party conference in Kalkar, North Rhine-Westphalia, is unprecedented - apart from that party conference five years ago, when the AfD chased its founder Bernd Lucke from the court.

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The fact that the event finally got out of hand was due to the speech by party leader Jörg Meuthen. He had decided to start the party congress with a declaration of war against mobsters, radicals and provocateurs in their own ranks. At all costs he wants to end an observation of the AfD by the constitution protection and has been fighting this for months. Now he has searched for the open confrontation .

What exactly happened?

The AfD actually wanted to vote in Kalkar on its course in social and pension policy . Liberal market forces and so-called National Social forces have been arguing about the right direction on this issue for years. The Federal Program Commission had agreed on a compromise paper that was to be adopted at the party congress. But while co-party leader Tino Chrupalla addressed this in his speech and positioned the AfD as the party of the working people, Meuthen used his speech to launch a frontal attack.

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Meuthen criticized the fact that officials of his party spoke of a “corona dictatorship” with regard to the pandemic measures. Among other things, parliamentary group leader Alexander Gauland had used the word in the Bundestag. Meuthen also attacked the members of the AfD parliamentary group who had referred to the Infection Protection Act as an “Enabling Act” and who were looking to join forces with the radicalizing “lateral thinkers” movement. The AfD will no longer achieve success if it appears more and more aggressive, coarse and uninhibited, he said. In doing so, he questioned the political style of the AfD, which in recent years has always been based on provocation, breaking taboos and crossing borders.

How did the party congress react?

There was already a hail of boos during Meuthen's speech. Some delegates held up the red voting card with the word "No" on it. There were outbursts of anger in Björn Höcke's ethnic camp. At the end, some of the party members stood up to give Meuthen a standing ovation, while others did not clap at all. Meuthen did not receive the actual receipt until Sunday. The application "SN-3" of the far-right Freiburg AfD politician Dubravko Mandic, who was most recently almost thrown out of the party, served as an outlet for the pent-up anger. This demanded that the party congress disapprove of the “divisive behavior” of Meuthen and his supporters. This is responsible for the fall in favor of the voters. Most recently, the AfD came to seven percent in a Forsa survey.

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Perhaps this proposal would not have been negotiated at all, but after Meuthen's speech it needed a debate. Meuthen did serious damage to the party, said AfD Deputy Chief Stephan Brandner. The AfD MP and Höcke ally Jürgen Pohl accused Meuthen of “arrogance” and shouted: “Your time in the AfD is over!” And the state chairman of Saxony, Jörg Urban, said: “Mr. Meuthen, this discussion still divides our party continue. ”Again and again delegates shouted into the microphone and talked in a rage.

What particularly upset many in the hall was that Meuthen had said about the radicalized “lateral thinker” movement that some there couldn't even think straight ahead. "Meuthen spoiled itself yesterday with hundreds of thousands of opponents of the Corona measures," complained the Brandenburg AfD politician Birgit Bessin. “But we are the ones who give these people a voice.” Bessin is considered a supporter of the officially disbanded “wing” in the AfD.

Meuthen supporters, however, praised his speech as “leadership”. Finally, Meuthen ally Kay Gottschalk stepped to the microphone and asked not to vote - a possibility for Meuthen to save face. A narrow majority of 53 percent agreed. 47 percent opposed it. One can assume that this corresponds to the majority in the AfD.

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Does the AfD dismantle itself?

Radical forces in the AfD have always fought against those who, if not in content, then at least want to be more moderate in appearance and tone. Party leader Meuthen once made a pact himself with the radicals. But this year he brought about the dissolution of the "wing" and the sacking of its puller Andreas Kalbitz. The dispute over this approach has divided the party even deeper and forced everyone to choose one side.

While in the past the alliance between supposedly moderate and radical forces may have been a recipe for success for the AfD, the two trends are now blocking each other. As a result, many functionaries complain that the AfD still does not have the slightest hint of a strategy for the super election year 2021. And when it comes to Corona, the party still does not know what it wants: this is exemplified by the bitter dispute over rapprochement the “lateral thinker” movement on the street, some of which is even more radical than the AfD.

Meuthen's balance sheet from this party congress is mixed: He was able to increase his majority in the federal executive board because the less radical candidates were able to prevail in the post-election of the vacant posts. At the same time, he knows that this majority has feet of clay because he only has a good half of the party behind him.

But it is not a happy day for the radicals in the party either. Because they know that the AfD's appeal in the past was also based on its victories. The polls show how difficult it will be for the AfD to repeat its success of 2017 next year. Figurehead Höcke did not venture out of cover at the party congress. He never spoke up once. Its nimbus is also damaged. A sentence from Meuthen should ring in the delegates' ears for longer: "Either we will get the curve here and soon, or we will find ourselves in very difficult seas as a party and possibly fail."

"Crossed the red line": Ex-Lower Saxony state chief Dana Guth resigns from the AfD .
First she resigned from the parliamentary group, now from the party: Lower Saxony's former AfD state chief criticizes the growing influence of the "wing". © Photo: dpa Ex-AfD state chief Dana Guth. Lower Saxony's former AfD state chief Dana Guth left the party after a dispute over the direction. "After long and careful consideration, I have now made the decision to end my membership in the AfD," wrote Guth to the regional association and the district boards.

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