The populist and nationalist alternative to Germany (AfD) launched its two-day party conference in the eastern city of Dresden on Saturday, showing a disregard for pandemic control guidelines for having about 570 delegates attending the event in person.
The conference aims to finalize the party’s manifesto before the national elections scheduled for September. The electoral slogan chosen is: “Germany. But normal.”
The AfD has yet to decide who will run for chancellor in this year’s election. With several party leaders eyeing the nomination, delegates voted to delay the final decision after the weekend’s summit ended. The party decided, however, that it would present two candidates as it did in the previous elections in 2017. Although German parties generally chose their leaders through the vote of the delegates, AfD decided that the issue would be resolved with a survey of members.
In a separate vote, participants endorsed Germany’s withdrawal from the European Union as part of its manifesto. The departure from Germany was “necessary”, according to the initiative, but they also demanded the creation of a “new European community of economies and interests”.
What did the party chiefs say?
Co-leader Tino Chrupalla, who is seen as one of the main candidates for a candidate for chancellor, urged delegates to leave the internal struggles of the past few months behind and go to the united elections. He said the lesson from the recent heavy losses of support in the state elections was that his party needed a “clear profile, unity, courage and solidarity”.
The other co-leader, Jörg Meuthen, used his speech to attack rival parties. He said that Germany was ruled for 16 years by a chancellor and parties that gradually destroyed “normality” in Germany.
The Green and Left parties accepted a specific dose of vitriol, with Meuthen calling them “socialist opposition parties” for which “this destruction did not go far and fast enough”. He also criticized the Greens for their “orgies of prohibitions and quotas” against the pandemic.
Reporting from the location, Rosalia Romaniec of DW said that Meuthen’s speech was met with applause, but hardliner Chrupalla was given a standing ovation.
Simon Young of DW, who is also in Dresden, said the debate on concrete issues could be overshadowed by the current split in the party between elements of the extreme right and more conservative elements.
He said, however, that “normality” for the party means things like a return to mandatory military service and “a ban on minarets”.
In that case, party leaders can look to neighboring Switzerland, where minarets were banned after a 2009 referendum.
In a tweet, Young also quoted an AfD delegate as saying “If Germany wants to live, the EU must die”, but noted that the party appeared to be divided over the EU.
What is AfD’s position on the pandemic?
At the conference, the party also passed a resolution on the management of the coronavirus pandemic. In it, he calls for an end to the blockades and says that protection against infection must be left to the “responsible citizens”.
The resolution also accused Germany’s governing parties of creating a “fear policy”, while rejecting even indirect pressures to be vaccinated or tested.
Björn Höcke, the party leader in the state of Thuringia, went so far as to say that the pandemic was created through testing. “The tests and the amount of tests led us to have a pandemic in the first place,” he said. “Without the test, it would be nothing more than an infection.”
Höcke belongs to a branch of the party that is under surveillance by the authorities as a possible extremist movement. At a conference in the western city of Kalkar in November, he was verbally attacked by Meuthen, who appears to have more moderate views.
What does the party expect?
AfD has high hopes for the June 6 elections in eastern Saxony-Anhalt, where it obtained a quarter of the vote in 2016.
Meuthen said in his speech that the party, “if we do the right things this time”, will have a chance to become “the strongest political force in a German state” for the first time.
The AfD, founded in 2013 as a party against the euro, is currently the largest opposition group in the Bundestag. But other parties have completely rejected the idea of forming a coalition with him after the national elections, due to his hard-line positions against immigration and European solidarity, among other things.
tj, dj (dpa, AFP)