It started with criticism of the euro. Then migration, corona and inflation – with the crises, the AfD has established itself in the party system. Ten years after it was founded, Weidel is now talking about co-governing.
Around 30,000 members, under surveillance by the domestic secret service as a suspected case of right-wing extremism and with a relatively large number of voters, especially in the east – the Alternative for Germany (AfD), founded in 2013 to protest against the euro rescue policy, will be ten years old this year. Co-party leader Alice Weidel expects that it won’t be long before her party is in power in the first federal state. However, the CDU, which needs her as a partner for this, comes with a resolute rejection.
In 2024, new state parliaments will be elected in Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia. “This is of course strategically relevant because we are announcing the first government responsibility in an East German state,” said Weidel in an interview with the German Press Agency. She considers government participation “absolutely realistic”. In Saxony, AfD and CDU together represented two-thirds of the electorate. “You can’t keep refusing to do that forever.” In the three federal states mentioned, the AfD was the second strongest force in the last state elections in 2019. In Thuringia it is now number one in the polls.
Will the firewall hold up or is the plaster crumbling?
However, a CDU party conference resolution from 2018 excludes cooperation with the AfD. Friedrich Merz had also said that with him as CDU leader there would be “a firewall to the AfD”. He had explicitly addressed the East German state associations and also threatened party exclusion proceedings.
Recently, however, there have been discussions as to whether the plaster on the “fire wall” is crumbling. In November, for example, the CDU parliamentary group in the Thuringian state parliament, with the help of votes from the AfD and the “Bürger für Thüringen” in parliament, pushed through a motion against gendering at authorities in the Free State. In December, a decision in Bautzen, Saxony, made headlines, where the majority of the CDU in the district council approved a motion by the AfD on refugee policy.
“Then no stone is left unturned”
But coalitions and real cooperation at a higher level? “We have a clear party conference decision. Any cooperation with the AfD is excluded. Our firewall to the right must be in place,” said a CDU spokesman on request. Political scientist Frank Decker from the University of Bonn also sees no chance in the foreseeable future: “If that happens, then no stone would be left unturned in the federal CDU.”
The AfD has become more radical and is being monitored by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. “It’s an absolute taboo. The CDU won’t be able to afford it.” Decker is certain that the firewall at the state level will remain in place. “The AfD knows that it cannot help govern.”
AfD plans “small anniversary celebration”
In a few weeks the party will be ten years old. According to Weidel, there will be a “small anniversary celebration” in Königstein in Hesse. On February 6, 2013, the founders were primarily concerned with the euro rescue policy. At the moment, however, it is primarily the issues of energy and inflation with which the AfD is trying to score points. There is hardly any talk of the Russian war against Ukraine, but all the more of the “economic war” that the AfD believes Germany is waging against Russia. There are regular calls for the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to be put into operation and for the sanctions against Moscow to end.
Right outer flow strengthened
In the polls, the AfD benefits from the situation. Nationwide it is around 15 percent. At the beginning of the year there were still 10. After losses in several elections, a dispute raged in the party, which the so-called moderates lost to ex-party leader Jörg Meuthen. Meuthen left the AfD in January. The right-wing current emerged strengthened from a party conference in June and it became quiet around Meuthen’s remaining supporters. None of them are represented on the new national board either. “We hardly notice any more forces that try to oust the extremist tendencies from the party,” said the President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Thomas Haldenwang.
Party leader Weidel now wants to push “personnel development programs and internal training programs for good staff” “in order to be able to take on government responsibility. We have to build this up in a structured way like in a corporation,” she says.
Höcke with great influence
Meanwhile, Björn Höcke is working persistently to broaden his base in the AfD: the Thuringian AfD state chief is classified as a right-wing extremist by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The domestic intelligence service credits him with great influence in the party. The last party congress also decided at his instigation that the AfD could also be led by a single leader in the future. Although Höcke always emphasizes his role in Thuringia, he also said on the sidelines of the party conference on the question of a possible candidacy for the party leadership: “Maybe it will be in a few years.” 2024, the year of the state elections in Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg, the AfD also elects a new federal leadership at a party conference.
Weidel speaks of “rainbow fuss”
Weidel has no problem with Höcke, who describes the USA as an “alien power” in Europe and Russia as a “natural partner”. In personal dealings, she appreciates him. “I think we are differentiated by the language and our imprint.” Weidel, who lives with a woman herself, isn’t bothered by the fact that Höcke speaks disparagingly of the West as a “rainbow empire”. She knows what that means. It’s about “this exuberant front-of-the-chest carrying” of an ideology. You go the “rainbow fuss” on your nerves. Everyone should be saved according to their own style.
When asked whether the party is a different AfD today than it was ten years ago, the party leader says: “No, it’s not. We were already written to the right back then.” The fact is: the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has been monitoring the AfD as a whole party since 2021. The Administrative Court of Cologne had agreed with the secret service. There are sufficient indications of anti-constitutional efforts within the AfD. The party has appealed. The case is now with the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia. The AfD expects a decision in the second half of the year.