Offbeat AfD: Self-inflicted in an existential crisis

13:20  08 april  2020
13:20  08 april  2020 Source:   sueddeutsche.de

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Die AfD hat zuletzt in Umfragen stark an Zustimmung verloren. © picture alliance / dpa The AfD has recently lost a lot of approval in surveys.

After a bizarre power struggle, the AfD stands in front of a pile of broken glass. Despite falling poll numbers, the party should not write off anyone.

Self-inflicted in an existential crisis

It has not been a long time since the largest opposition party in the Bundestag formulated a self-assured goal: at the party conference at the end of November, the AfD, inspired by high poll values, declared itself capable of governing. The party leader even classified it as indispensable: "Everything is coming towards us," Jörg Meuthen said. But just four months later, he and his party are standing in a heap of broken pieces. The alternative for Germany is lost in the country's biggest crisis in decades in a bizarre power struggle and plunges itself into an existential crisis. And Meuthen himself is currently facing the sudden end of his political career.

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The punching and stinging that is currently taking place among right-wing populists is unprecedented. Basically, it is about dealing with the "wing", which is now officially classified as right-wing by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and its leading figures such as Björn Höcke and Andreas Kalbitz. At the end of March, the AfD leadership decided not to marginalize the right-wing extremists, but to dissolve the "wing" and let it rise into the party. The volte impressively made it clear that the party does not want to seriously stop the radicals in its own ranks, but wants to integrate them.

That was too little even for the party leader. Jörg Meuthen then proposed, quite surprisingly and apparently without much consultation, to split the AfD into a conservative-liberal part and the "wing" and thus to bend the right-wing extremists out of the party. He is rightly concerned about the closeness to right-wing radicals that discourage middle-class voters. The AfD could lose even more in polls. Meuthen failed miserably. His overwhelming opponents in the party leadership launched a call for party unity. Meuthen had to apologize for a "big mistake" by the board decision on Monday. The humiliation of a party leader can hardly be any clearer.

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The summoned unity of the party could be doomed to it

The power struggle in the AfD is decided. The party has now officially decided to continue tolerating political abysses among its ranks. Even if the "wing" dissolves as a network, which is not certain - the ideas of its members remain. Right-wing extremists such as Björn Höcke should continue to achieve record results for the AfD in elections in eastern Germany, that is the widespread hope among the party leaders.

The consequences of this development go far. In the AfD, the boundaries between moderate and radical forces will in future become even more blurred. That creates a new problem. If the "wing" really goes up in the party, the intelligence agency, which had just declared the AfD movement an object of observation, would almost inevitably have to tighten its pace against the entire party. The unity of the party invoked by the leadership could then be doomed to it. Civil servants in particular, an important pillar of the party, would then hardly be able to remain members. The bloodletting would be great.

However, despite declining survey values, no one should write off the AfD seven years after it was founded. It is feared that the looming economic crisis will become a breeding ground for new populist tendencies.

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