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The AfD's greatest enemy is the AfD: How a party dismantles itself

The alternative for Germany is currently making a name for itself through arguments and scandals, moderate members are running away from it. Your boss, Jörg Meuthen, still prefers to avoid his party colleagues in the Bundestag.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) is a puzzling party: there is actually a niche in the market that it could fill. In the eyes of many German conservatives, the Christian Democrats under Chancellor Angela Merkel have moved too far to the left. The FDP, which would offer itself as an alternative, remains pale. The fact that the AfD cannot benefit is due to the radical right-wing activities of numerous members and some exponents as well as internal disputes. If a party so stubbornly refuses to succeed, this leaves only one conclusion: the radicals, who are concerned with ideology rather than serious political work, are now too strong and too numerous for the party to get rid of.

In the past few days and weeks, the AfD inflicted several blows on itself: In Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, moderate MPs left the respective parliamentary groups, exasperated by the radical goings-on of their party colleagues, whereupon they lost their parliamentary group status due to insufficient size.

One of the founders leaves the party

In Lower Saxony, the previous state and parliamentary group leader Dana Guth was among those who left. Guth is considered a moderate AfD representative; Before she left, she was defeated by the Bundestag member Jens Kestner, who is part of the völkisch-nationalist camp, in a battle vote for the state chairmanship. On Wednesday it became known that the opponents in Lower Saxony want to undergo a mediation process.

The day before, Konrad Adam had announced his resignation from the party. Adam, a conservative intellectual cut and a former editor in the features section of the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung", had been one of the party's founders in 2015. Now he thinks that the AfD has no future as a “bourgeois-conservative” force. Although he has not played a significant role in the party for a long time, one should not underestimate the symbolic effect of his departure. According to Adam's message, the AfD is not a respectable alternative for bourgeois voters.

One day before Adam's exit became known, the TV station Pro Sieben reported in a documentary that Christian Lüth, the spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group, had spoken of immigrants who came to Germany could later be shot or gassed. The parliamentary group threw Lüth, who had already been released in May because of another scandalous statement, before the broadcast was broadcast. She was unable to land a liberation with this, as the public now rightly wonders whether the top of the parliamentary group, which worked closely with Lüth, really did not know who was their spokesperson.

Gauland's gloomy role

Alexander Gauland, one of the two faction leaders of the AfD in the Bundestag, plays a particularly gloomy role in all of this. In his media work, Gauland built on Lüth, say Gauland's opponents in the party. Not so long ago, the former newspaper editor was still seen by observers as a guarantor against the party's slide into extremism. In the meantime, the 79-year-old seems to be promoting further radicalization: For example, together with his co-parliamentary group leader Alice Weidel and party leader Tino Chrupalla, he opposed the cancellation of the party membership of Andreas Kalbitz, who is classified as right-wing extremist by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. At the end of July, the Federal Arbitration Court finally declared AfD Kalbitz ’membership null and void, whereupon he also lost his post as Brandenburg state chief.

Jörg Meuthen, who is party leader alongside Chrupalla, is considered the most important representative of the moderate within the AfD and thus an opponent of Weidels, Gaulands and Chrupallas. Meuthen is currently a member of the EU Parliament, and he does not want to change anything: On Wednesday, the 59-year-old economist announced in a circular to his party colleagues that he did not want to run for the Bundestag in 2021.

Meuthen feels more comfortable in Brussels

How deep the rift is between Meuthen and large parts of his party was made clear by the reason he gave to press representatives for his stay in Brussels: In his group in the EU Parliament there are “pretty bright minds” and there is no conflict . The audience could imagine that both are not the case in the Bundestag parliamentary group from Meuthen's point of view. The calm in Brussels gives him the strength to concentrate on the party leadership, he said. By not running for the Bundestag, Meuthen also avoids a possible duel with Alice Weidel for first place on the list in Baden-Württemberg.

Meuthen was shocked by the inflammatory statements made by the fired parliamentary group spokesman Lüth: "I was disgusted by what Lüth said." In the conflict over the direction of the party, Meuthen is still optimistic: "It's a lot that Kalbitz is gone," he said. For Meuthen, Kalbitz's involuntary departure was a triumph, but what this victory is worth remains to be seen: the Brandenburg AfD could soon choose a pupil Kalbitz ’as his successor. Jörg Meuthen does not seem to expect his party to come to rest soon either: "There is no decisive battle, but many small decisions, and in the end you can see where the shop is," he explained.

You can do that Germany correspondent Hansjörg Friedrich MülleFollow r on Twitter.