AfD chooses new party leadership and future course

party congress
AfD chooses new party leadership and future course

Tino Chrupalla

AfD federal chairman Tino Chrupalla wants to continue to determine the course of the party. Photo: Sebastian Kahnert/dpa

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Is the AfD moving further to the right? And who will be at their head in the future? Decisions about this will be made in the next three days at the AfD party conference in Riesa.

The federal party conference of the AfD in Riesa, Saxony, started with a little delay. The most important item on the agenda of the three-day event is the election of the new party leadership.

Federal chairman Tino Chrupalla is seeking re-election. The member of the Bundestag Norbert Kleinwächter from Brandenburg, who is assigned to the moderate wing of the party, wants to compete against him.

The future course of the AfD will also be decided, depending on how many representatives of the respective party current can secure a post on the federal executive board.

Chrupalla wants a liberal and social course

The AfD chairman Tino Chrupalla wants to lead his party in the next two years on a “liberal and social” course. In his speech at the opening of the 13th federal party conference, he said he saw no contradiction between “free” and “social”. The most important item on the agenda of the three-day event is the election of the new party leadership. Chrupalla, who heads the AfD parliamentary group together with Alice Weidel, is running again.

Chrupalla said to the delegates that a new federal board had to be elected that would work together “collegially and constructively, trustingly and considerately”. It is now about “leaving the destructive mood of the past behind us”. One reason for the partly bad mood in the party was the results of the last three state elections. The AfD lost votes in Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia.

Trouble with Berlin state association

There was trouble even before the party congress began: the delegates of the Berlin state association were excluded from the meeting because of alleged irregularities in their election.

The election of the federal spokesman – that’s what the chairmen of the AfD are called – is expected to take place this Friday, as a party spokesman said in advance. However, it is also possible that, due to lengthy debates about the agenda, this will only happen on Saturday.

The current sole chairman, Tino Chrupalla from Saxony, is aiming for re-election. Norbert Kleinwaechter, member of the Bundestag from Brandenburg, who belongs to the moderate camp, is the opposing candidate. A victory for Kleinwächter against the incumbent would be more of a surprise, according to party circles.

The AfD MEP Nicolaus Fest is applying as a possible co-chair. Others have not officially announced any intentions. However, a spokesman for co-group leader Alice Weidel had not ruled out on Deutschlandfunk that she could also act as co-chair in the event of a dual leadership. The party congress must first decide whether the AfD should stay with the individual leadership or whether it should get a leadership duo again.

After the recent loss of votes in the state elections in Saarland, in Schleswig-Holstein – where the AfD was even voted out of a state parliament for the first time – and in North Rhine-Westphalia, the “moderates” and opponents of Chrupallas had mobilized. They accuse the master craftsman from the East of not being able to score points in the West, criticize a course that is too pro-Russian, associate it with leaving the party and call for more “demarcation to the far right”.

Kleinwächter pleads for “new beginnings”

Chrupalla challenger Kleinwächter pleads for a “new beginning” in terms of content as well as in “style”, “appearance” and “communication” and insists on a “liberal-conservative” profile. “Let’s completely renovate the party and give it a new coat of paint,” wrote the 36-year-old in an “Agenda for the party chairmanship” presented shortly before the start of the party congress.

Chrupalla has been leading the AfD alone since ex-co-boss Jörg Meuthen left the party in January. The 47-year-old says he doesn’t represent any particular movement and stands for the entire party. In his own words, he expects a “hot party congress” not only because of the weather. Meuthen had certified the AfD an increasingly radical course when he left. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution – the German domestic secret service – now classifies the AfD as a suspected case in the area of ​​right-wing extremism. He sees sufficient evidence of anti-constitutional efforts within the party and wants to monitor them with intelligence tools. This can be the use of undercover investigators or the recruitment of informants in the AfD environment.

The party continues to try to prevent this legally. Although the administrative court in Cologne ruled in favor of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in March, the AfD has appealed against it.

Counter-demonstrations expected

The protest alliance «AfD? Goodbye!» called for counter-demonstrations during the party congress in Riesa. There is a “further shift to the right for the federal executive board”. “It must not be that the AfD can take these steps without civil society screaming,” it says in an appeal. According to the information, representatives of the SPD, Greens, Left, DGB and the Central Council of Muslims want to take part in the protests.

The more than 20 delegates from the Berlin state association are only allowed to watch the party conference as guests and not vote. The state arbitration court of the Berlin AfD had excluded them. Shortly before the party conference, this was confirmed by the Federal Arbitration Court. An urgent application by the state association before the Berlin district court was unsuccessful, as the Berlin member of the Bundestag and deputy AfD chairwoman Beatrix von Storch confirmed on Thursday evening.

The background to this was the circumstances of the election of the delegates last year: the core issue was whether three candidates were lawfully included on the electoral list. Important votes are now missing from Storch should she run for a position in the AfD leadership again.

dpa

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