April 23, 2017
The demise of the AfD has accelerated dramatically
It remains the consensus among German political commentators that the AfD will beat the 5% threshold necessary for representation in the Bundestag. But this is becoming less certain, given the deep division of the party that came out into the open over the weekend. We already reported on the decision by Frauke Petry, the party leader, not to enter the forthcoming election campaign as the top candidate - Spitzenkandidat as it is known. At the party congress over the weekend Petry lost five battles, most notably a suggestion that the party should have no candidates, and that it should position itself to be able to enter into a coalition in 2021. The party not only rejected her proposals: they voted not even to put them up for discussion. By the end of the Congress she looked utterly devastated and isolated.
The congress instead decided to nominate two other politicians, Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel, as their two joint candidates. But neither is a match to Petry. Petry is hardly a centrist herself, but the party is now moving further to the right and is now led by candidates who are effectively condoning the membership of neo-Nazis within the party, which has been one of the sources of the conflict.
Petry is still nominally the party leader. Some people expected her to resign over the weekend. We think her game plan is let her opponents run into a wall and pick up the rubble afterwards. But it is not clear to us that the party will survive such a clash.
Jasper von Altenbockum made an important point in his commentary about the demise of this party. German conservatives had great hopes that the AfD would ultimately emerge as Germany’s conservative/liberal party, a bit like the Tories in the UK, or the Republicans in the US. He notes that the economic section of the manifesto contains virtually no liberal policies. The AfD is instead following in the footsteps of other populists parties in Europe, with its emphasis on anti-establishment politics and a criticism of the excesses of liberal society. The party has reduced itself to an anti-immigration movement. Petry tried to open a pathway to conservative-liberal forces of German society, but this path is now blocked.