The AFD’s (Alternative fur Deutschland) three-day federal party conference in Riesa, which started on Friday and culminates today, will be looked back as a turning point in the history of the young party, since its maiden and unexpected entry in the Bundestag in 2015, with a spectacular 12.6 percent of votes – a record for a new party in Germany. In the 2021 federal elections, the AFD was able to secure 10.3 percent votes, a clear decrease from its 2015 score, but also a clear indication that the party, which ambitions to project itself as a people’s party with a broad electorate, is here to stay.
On Saturday, party members elected Tino Chrupalla and Alice Weidel as the two leaders of the party. Chrupalla, who was party leader, was re-elected party leader, with 53.45 percent of the votes cast. The surprise was the election of Alice Weidel as second leader, not least to Alice Weidel herself. When the results of the vote for the second leader was announced, Weidel appeared astonished to have won a good 63.3 percent.
For now, the AFD retains its two-leader model. Party delegates decided to retain dual leadership for a further two years. However, and this is the chief take-away point, they changed the statutes of the AfD in such a way that, in theory, a single leader would be possible in the future. The Thuringian head of state Björn Höcke campaigned for this.
But the two-leader model may not be for long. The score gap between Chrupalla and Weidel shows the party has a preferred leader, and the AFD of the next critical years could well mean a new unity strategy around “Alice fur Deutschland”.
It would be a turning point for the young party, which has yet to prove to voters it can offer a united alternative with a real chance of forming government. But the road ahead is tough, although by no means impossible.
In her candidacy speech, Weidel warned delegates, “There is nothing voters hate more than a party that is preoccupied with itself. That has to be stopped.”
“The AfD is not a run-out model – the AfD is the party of the future,” emphasized the 43-year-old in her application speech.
“The AfD is the necessary corrective in today’s corroded party landscape. And without us, the country faces a bitter future!”
She recognized that “Yes, the AfD has also experienced more comfortable times”, but said the AFD was needed.
“We have started to change this country. For our children, for our grandchildren.”
Weidel called for the AFD to stay the course and to avoid taking the soft line approach:
“Let’s stick to our goals and ideals.”
“In addition, you have to sell your own achievements better again. After all, it was the AfD that failed the general mandatory vaccination in Parliament. And with inflation, energy crisis and all the inflation, there are many other issues where only the AfD takes the word.”
Regarding past disputes within the party, she asked members to “stop baseless accusations in public.”
“Only when we live internally cohesion, with an open and cultured culture of discussion and debate, will we succeed externally in unity!”, she said.
AFD Present and Future
The AFD has not scored well in the recent state elections. The party was voted out in state elections in Schleswig Holstein in May, having failed to clear the 5% hurdle for parliamentary representation. In the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia later that month, the AFD barely got by, winning just 5.2% of the vote in Germany’s most populous state.
But new realities are setting in, and soon, the AFD could be back. The problems that the AFD has long warned about and campaigned on – inflation, the energy crisis, the euro, uncontrolled migration, public insecurity – will dominate the next years. The challenge for the AFD will be to convince voters, not that they were right, but they are the right party with the right leader to fix things.
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