AfD in the election campaign: Conspicuously inconspicuous


Status: 15.09.2021 5:50 p.m.

Hardly any provocations, hardly any outrage – the AfD is not noticed in the election campaign. Internally, however, the unresolved questions of power are coming to a head. And some AfD members look to the near future with concern.

An analysis by Martin Schmidt, ARD capital studio

She stayed calm, accommodated her messages and didn’t hand them out too heavily – some in the AfD took a deep breath on Monday evening. Alice Weidel was present at two large discussion rounds on ARD and ZDF with the top candidates of the opposition parties. Both times she completed this to the end.

That was still different in the 2017 election campaign: At that time, she left the television studio angrily after questions about the right-wing extremist Thuringian AfD state chairman Björn Höcke and since then has repeatedly snapped at journalists in interviews.

Consultant for Weidel and Chrupalla

Some party friends, who like to call Weidel “ice princess”, fear their appearances for the external impact of the AfD. But Weidel has learned something new, has been advised, and nowadays attacks by political opponents are much more relaxed.

Her co-top candidate Tino Chrupalla also has advisors around him, including a trainer who has been working on making him look more confident in interviews since he was elected party chairman. Even if that doesn’t always work, he recently couldn’t think of a favorite German poem in an interview with a ZDF children’s reporter.

The fact that it is surprisingly quiet about the AfD in the election campaign is not only due to the fact that the top candidate duo is trying to control themselves. It is noticeable how the other parties, the media and also the voters have got used to the AfD. “We are the most boring party in the election campaign,” is how a member of the federal executive board describes it. In coalition mental games, the AfD is left out – no one wants to talk to her and she would not talk to anyone seriously about working together.

There is no excitement

Years ago, every provocation for a scandalous headline was good, but today there is no great excitement. For example, with a central election campaign topic, climate protection: The AfD sees no significant human influence on climate change. In her election manifesto she advises simply to counter the warming positively. A thesis that only causes political opponents to shrug their shoulders.

The situation is similar with other topics: With the demands for a German exit from the European Union or the immediate end of all corona protective measures, the AfD is already opposing the vast majority of the population – unlike what it always tries to convey.

Stable survey results

That is probably one of the reasons why the party has achieved a “glass ceiling” for itself in the election polls, as some in the AfD suspect. For months they have been between ten and twelve percent. Compared to other opposition parties, this is astonishingly stable, but at a level that is too low to live up to its own claim to be a “People’s Party”.

Many AfD election campaigners are noticing the difference to 2017 these days: there is often much less going on in front of the stages on the marketplaces. At that time, the party was still able to score with its stance on refugee policy and attract many non-voters.

Events “for your own bubble”

“In the past, a lot of people wanted to come and see who we are,” says a member of the Bundestag. Today, on the other hand, hardly anyone comes to really get information: “We mainly organize the many events for our own bladder,” he says, thus also explaining the stable surveys. In the long run, the party has to become younger, nicer, more humorous – and less concerned with itself, he is sure.

Internal scramble

Because while the AfD is currently looking very calm externally, the unresolved questions of power are intensifying internally. There are the posts that the upcoming parliamentary group has to allocate. If many newcomers started their AfD Bundestag adventure four years ago, claims have developed. “We are dealing here almost exclusively with egoists, each of whom wants to become something,” said the federal executive committee. Since Alexander Gauland no longer strives to become chairman of the parliamentary group, Chrupalla and Weidel want to lead as a duo in the future. But resistance, especially against Weidel, has been stirring for a long time.

Weidel’s family model

Sometimes the choice of words in conversations with Weidel’s family model turns out to be violent – she lives with her partner and two children. In contrast to this, the AfD election program states that the family as the nucleus of society consists of “father, mother and child”. Thuringia’s AfD country chief Höcke recently made homophobia at an election campaign event when he accused police officers of not calming down the counter-demonstrators of having been “bluffed”.

These days, Weidel is once again feeling that her party friends are not exactly squeamish with one another and, above all, with her. There have long been conspiratorial meetings, chat groups – the usual AfD overthrow planning program. In the end, however, as so often, it could fail, says one: Many wanted to get rid of Weidel, “but if everyone sees themselves as successors, it will be difficult.”

An uncontrollable faction?

In any case, the future AfD parliamentary group will be even more difficult to lead, even from the camp of the top candidates. On the state electoral lists there are some people in promising places who are likely to cause a sensation with their self-confident demeanor, their extremely right-wing attitude or even a combination of both.

Many of the members of the Bundestag have a clear electoral goal: Somehow maintain the result of 2017, in any case stay in double digits – but please do not do significantly better. “The parliamentary group must not get too big,” a sentence that many of the previous MEPs confirm in background discussions. Otherwise it would be uncontrollable. “We won’t be co-governing yet anyway,” explains one – the exact number of MPs is therefore irrelevant anyway.

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