Divided, threatened with police surveillance and little audible in the middle of the pandemic, the German extreme right prepares this weekend for the legislative elections in September in a high-risk congress for its leaders.
Alternative for Germany (AfD), which stormed the Bundestag (parliament) in 2017, becoming the first force in opposition to Angela Merkel, seems to have lost steam.
The far-right party, created in 2013 taking advantage of the anti-Euro niche, is going through a serious identity and leadership crisis that threatens to emerge into public light this weekend in Dresden (Saxony), fiefdom of the Islamophobic Pegida movement and, more recently , of the opposition to the anticovid restrictions.
Officially, this party meeting will be devoted to the presentation of the program for the legislative elections on September 26, which will mark the end of the Merkel era.
– Threat of dismissal –
No surprises are expected, as most of the 2017 program remains topical: from the exit of the euro to the re-establishment of compulsory military service, passing through immigration limited to the reception of “persecuted Christians and South African white peasants” or to the rapprochement with Russia.
This congress must “give a first positive impulse to the electoral campaign”, hopes Alice Weidel, co-chair of the parliamentary group.
“Unfortunately, the image of a party that is not united on the way in which the main candidate or candidates will be appointed prevails in the public,” laments the leader shaken by scandals of alleged illegal financing.
A handful of the 600 delegates plan to present a motion to remove the current leader, Jörg Meuthen, at war against the most extreme faction of the party, close to the neo-Nazi movement.
This motion against a leader accused of failing to “rise to the challenge of his role” and “simply not living up to it” requires two-thirds of the vote and has little chance of being adopted.
Instead, another motion limiting the number of leadership terms to two could instead be adopted and lead to Meuthen’s departure by the end of the year.
Another sticking point is the timing of appointing future parliamentary leaders to replace 80-year-old Alexander Gauland and Weidel.
Meuthen’s opponents want to place their pawns already this weekend, while the AfD leader wants to postpone the election of people.
The formation could adopt a compromise solution, with one candidate appointed this weekend and another later.
Therefore, few surprises are expected. Tino Chrupalla, a 45-year-old former craftsman, turned MP for Saxony and co-chairman of the party, is well positioned to embody in the future binomial the toughest wing of the formation in parliament.
The other end of the spectrum could be represented by Joana Cotar, a 48-year-old MP in Hesse (west), who was hardened in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party.
– Sources of contagion –
The AfD has stagnated in polls for months at around 10% of voting intentions, against 12.6% four years ago. Its position has been strengthened in the ‘Länder’ of the former GDR but the party is losing influence in the west.
It has not even managed to take advantage of the movement against masks, which is very dynamic in Germany. Their fiefdoms of the former GDR became the main sources of infection of the coronavirus in the country at the end of 2020.
Furthermore, the party may be placed under official police surveillance as it is accused of contributing to the resurgence in Germany of far-right terrorism.
The AfD has been “enormously radicalized” in recent years, which “has divided the party in two,” far-right political scientist Hajo Funke (Free University of Berlin) told AFP.
“Currently, it is not seen as a party with which a coalition can be formed,” says Funke, for whom the AfD is “isolated” and has lost luster after xenophobic and anti-Semitic attacks perpetrated since 2019 and a pandemic during which has proposed “chaotic comings and goings.”
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