At the AfD’s convention, the party’s direction was supposed to get redefined. However, an anticipated coup by the hard-right did not occur. Instead, the party may have laid the foundation to become a viable government option in the future.
Party co-founder and former CDU member Alexander Gauland stepped down as one of the party’s chairs during the convention. However, not before handpicking his predecessor Tino Chrupalla, who now, together with Jörg Meuthen will lead the federal AfD. Chrupalla had several opponents and thus won with only 54 percent of the vote. Meuthen, who is also a Member of the European Parliament, received a better result than expected at just under 70 percent.
After the party has been established in all German states and remains the biggest opposition party in the federal parliament, both men communicated the next steps: the AfD needs to become a governing party and more professional.
The conundrum with this goal? All other parties continue to categorically exclude any cooperation with the AfD, never mind a coalition. The fact that the nationalist group within the AfD “Der Flügel” continues to gain momentum, makes government participation anytime soon not more conceivable.
Neither Meuthen nor Chrupalla belongs to the Flügel, however, particularly Chrupalla has continuously used a rather dubious language that carries certain connotations, e.g. “Mischvolk” (mixed race) or “Umvolkung” (ethnic replacement) when referring to Germany’s immigration policies. His calling card has been his biography. Chrupalla is East German, geographically the party’s stronghold and, due to his previous profession as a painter, has the makings to become a highly relatable person for the working class.
In terms of his vision, Chrupalla remained vague, stating only a simple message: “We now have the task of bringing our country back on a better path. Our beautiful Germany deserves a different policy. ” How this path will be reached and what a different policy would look like was not addressed.
Prior to the convention, rumors continued to circulate that either Germany’s most controversial politician and Flügel leader Björn Höcke could seek to join the leadership team and thereby push the AfD into the same direction on the federal, the party has embarked on in the eastern states, including borderline neo-nazism.
In the end, Höcke decided to not compete for any federal office. The Flügel’s influence was omnipresent, nonetheless. Moderate elements of the party (e.g. Kay Gottschalk, Georg Pazderski) and thus main critics of Höcke and the Flügel’s other face, Andreas Kalbitz, lost their deputy positions during the convention.
It displays the continuing dichotomy within the party. Moderates such as Meuthen, who try to position the party for future government positions continue to struggle with the far-right elements the highly popular Flügel offers. A quasi civil war was expected, even Meuthen could have been voted out in favor of a radical replacement (one of the candidates, though not a member of the Flügel is a well-known Holocaust denier).
However, a rebellion did not occur. This leads to the question of whether or not the party has found a consensus that would, perhaps, result in toning down the rhetoric. It would allow the party to eventually position itself as a viable coalition option of the future.
Here, the CDU remains the logical partner and given the current constellation ins Germany, where a hard-left alliance cannot be stopped unilaterally, the AfD has the chance to become an inevitable quantity for the CDU if it manages to emancipate itself from its radical elements.