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AfD far-right radicals will lead party into election | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW

Four months ahead of the next federal election, Germany’s biggest opposition party, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has chosen its top candidates for the upcoming election campaign.

The victors were Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla, both of whom are sitting members of parliament. Party members elected the pair with a resounding 71% of the vote share, giving a boost to the more radical far-right forces in the party.

Cold shoulder from party leader

Cracks are again beginning to show in the upper ranks of the AfD, the far-right party founded only eight years ago on a nationalist and euroskeptic platform, which has since been amended to emphasize anti-immigration policies.

Alice Weidel and Tino were not the preferred choices of party leader Jörg Meuthen, a member of the European Parliament, who had been promoting more moderate lead candidates for the upcoming election campaign. His plan failed miserably.

Jörg Meuthen speaking at a party conference on April 10, 2021 in Dresden

Party co-chair Jörg Meuthen opposes the radical extreme right forces in his party

At a press conference after their nomination had been announced, the victorious duo Weidel and Chrupalla spoke in relaxed tones, called their nomination a great success, and said they saw the AfD now back on track after months of power struggles. The two explained that their main focus was now the fight against coronavirus mitigation measures imposed by the federal government.

“The lockdown is completely excessive,” criticized Weidel, an economist. She warned of Germany’s economic decline. She also chose to lash out at the Green party, which is currently leading in the polls, accusing them of intending to lead the country into communism with their climate and energy policies.

Chrupalla invoked the importance of the German middle class. He himself is a craftsman and has warned against small businesses being squeezed amid the economic downturn. The 46-year-old from Saxony joined the AfD in 2015 because of its anti-immigration platform. He attracted significant criticism in 2020 after the global anti-racism movement sparked by the murder of unarmed Black man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer. Chrupalla tweeted about the Black Lives Matter protests, warning that the unrest showed how multiracial societies were doomed and how Germany needed to avoid such a development.

More recently, Chrupalla has been advocating a more moderate language — drastic messages would put off women voters, he said.

Opinion poll from early May puts the AfD at around 10% of the vote

Opinion polls put the AfD at around 10% of the vote

Weidel, who hails from western Germany, joined the AfD in 2013 and has held a high party office for several years. The openly gay co-head of the party in parliament opposes same-sex marriage, although she herself raises two children with her partner, who is of Sri Lankan origin. Weidel has been embroiled in a scandal over the false declaration of party finances and has more recently faced inner-party criticism for not pulling her weight in the regional election campaign for her home state of Baden-Württemberg.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Chrupalla and Weidel were not big on the details of what exactly they want to change.

The AfD has no chance of playing a part in the German government after September’s federal elections. The AfD strongly opposes all other parties — which, in turn, are unified against the far-right party.

Support from extreme-right ‘Wing’ faction

The nomination of  Weidel and Chrupalla is a victory for the AfD’s radical far-right. For months, the extreme forces called “the wing” have been targeted by the German domestic intelligence service: A report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution collected 1,000 pages of evidence of the anti-constitutional nature of the “wing,” which has since been formally dissolved.

Now, it seems moderates around party co-chair Jörg Meuthen are on the retreat. “The outlook for party leader Meuthen has become worse,” political scientist Frank Decker said on the Phoenix television station. “He has to expect that he will not survive in office at the next party conference.” However, that will not take place until after the Bundestag elections in September.

Against immigration, gender issues, and Islam

Until then, it’s election campaign time. The AfD is calling for a radical restructuring of German society: It wants to severely limit immigration and believes German citizenship should once again be dependent on a person’s origin.

They want numerous projects that fight racism or support a modern understanding of gender to have their funding cut. The AfD also doubts the existence of man-made climate change and wants Germany to continue to rely on coal and nuclear energy. The party rejects the EU and calls for Germany to leave the union.

The campaign’s top duo, Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla, said their main opponents in the election were Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats. Their election goal, they said, is to become stronger than the center-left Social Democrats, who are currently struggling.

In current polls, the AfD has around 11% of the vote and all other major parties have ruled out the possibility of a coalition with them.

This article has been translated from German.

While you’re here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society, with an eye toward understanding this year’s elections and beyond. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing, to stay on top of developments as Germany enters the post-Merkel era.

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