What the AfD Did in Wonderland
After Frauke Petry and her allies in the AfD unsuccessfully argued for Björn Höcke to be ejected from the party because of his “monument of shame” comment in a speech in Thuringia, Höcke promised not to run for the Bundestag in the national election, but said he would stay in the party and campaign energetically in his home base of Thuringia. So the convention proceeded without him, but not without his political presence and very much with his political protector, Alexander Gauland.
Stern magazine tells us on Saturday:
It is devastating enough for Petry, the party chief, that the party does not even choose to pursue the strategy debate she initiated, but by majority vote decides it to be irrelevant. Then it gets worse. Jörg Meuthen [her co-leader] gives a speech that rocks the hall and propels the delegates from their seats. The speech is punctuated by poison darts aimed at Petry. Sitting only feet away, she is forced to hear her own demolition, presented with rhetorical mastery.
First, Meuthen invokes the danger that the Federal Republic is “on the way to [being] a Muslim imprinted country.” Then he cries, “Germany is our land! It is the land of our parents and grandparents, and it is our civic duty to re-conquer it!” Thundering applause and cries of “Meuthen! Meuthen! Meuthen!” Then he directs an attack at Merkel, Schulz and Company, which is simultaneously an attack on Petry’s coalition strategy: “We can no longer put up with these types! And I don’t mean just basic opposition. We will not enter into any coalition with these types. We are becoming a super strong opposition. That’s how we roll!”
That was Saturday, the first day of the convention. Sunday brings further developments — some predictable, some surprising.
As the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung tells us:
The AfD has chosen Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel as its lead candidates. Not many outside of Baden-Württemberg know Weidel. Until now, she has spoken out most on economic subjects. The AfD intends to enter the Bundestag behind this team.
Alice Weidel has not been so publicly prominent as her party colleagues, Frauke Petty and Beatrix von Storch… She belongs to the politically moderate wing of her party, but has been extremely sharp in her attacks on Angela Merkel, targeting especially her asylum policy, which breaches international agreements. Weidel is also against health insurance for asylum applicants and what she regards as “naïve treatment” of Islamic hate-preachers. She also warns of overblown expectations of the integration of refugees into the labor force.
Weidel, who favors black pantsuits and white blouses. has a lifestyle that does not fit the cliché of a conservative party. She lives with her [female] life partner and their 4-year-old son on the shore of Lake Constance. She does not have much time for her family. As an economics major and [the equivalent of] an MBA and a doctorate, she counsels start-up enterprises worldwide. After years abroad in Asia with a focus on China, as well as in Europe and the United States, she speaks Mandarin…
As Die Welt tells us,
She rejects the rhetoric of the Höcke wing. Unlike the rightist nationalists, who advocate a “net emigration of foreigners,” Weidel favors a “guided, qualified immigration,” but is also against a “policy of open borders which attracts, above all, poor Muslim immigrants with no qualifications.”
But, as Bild informs us:
Weidel is surprising. She made it clear that she would campaign in Thuringia with Björn Höcke, even though she was a driving factor in forcing him out of the leadership. She and Höcke “are two parts of the same party.” Everyone works side-by-side in the election. This seems to be a sign of reconciliation with the right wing.
Bild also comments that Petry has one last chance to be elected again as party leader at the November convention, since the party needs leadership that Alexander Gauland — whom BILD calls “the dinosaur” — cannot provide.
And furthermore, she is still likely the most popular politician in Germany.
After the smoke clears, the party’s program is pretty aggressive. According to Stern:
The AfD is betting on rigorous measures in refugee policy, among other things an annual minimum deportation quota and no family reunification. Criminal immigrants should lose their citizenship. The party’s anti-Islam stance is bolstered by the motto: “Islam does not belong in Germany.”
The subject of family was very important at the convention. The AfD wants to stop the Germans’ “trend to self-demolition” and that will necessitate an “active demographic policy.” Measures to increase the birthrate.
Other points in the party platform are: exiting the euro, country-wide plebiscites, reversing the (anti-fossil fuels and anti-nuclear) energy change and ending the broadcast fee [like the BBC licence fee in the UK].
Meanwhile, as we see elsewhere in Die Welt, Petry’s new husband, Marcus Pretzell — who is not universally loved in the AfD — has made it clear that his path in North Rhine-Westphalia will not be the same as that of the national party.
The result of all this ruckus is that the AfD will be going into the national elections with a program that would not displease Höcke. It will be led by Höcke’s protector and a moderate who is willing to campaign with Höcke, but both Höcke and Petry, i.e., the biggest attractions the AfD have, will be on the sidelines.