May 212015
 
Putsch in the AfD?

I would not normally recommend acting on any of my predictions, because I have an amazing track-record of being wrong a long time in advance. But once in a blue moon, I get it right. In my WEP article on the AfD’s EP 2014 manifesto, I have pointed out that there was a rift between Lucke’s polite market liberalism on the one hand and more radical shades of right-wing populism on the other, and that the party would have to chose between the two. Evidence for this has been coming in in large quantities over the last couple of months, and things are moving really fast now. The party seems to be split solidly between Lucke and his fellow “moderates” (“liberals” seems to be a bit of an exaggeration), and the “conservatives” (certainly an understatement). Both factions are warring openly, and the upcoming party conference in June may well mark the undoing of the AfD.

Over the last week, new scores of “liberals” have resigned from their offices or even left the party in despair, leading arch-“liberal” Hans-Olaf Henkel to call for a “purge” (yes, as in “Stalinist purge”). Over the weekend, Lucke decided to fight back and launched his “Wake-up call” initiative that aims at keeping the moderates within the party. The initiative is not just another resolution/website but rather a formal membership association (apparently with its own funds) that could be used to ferry the moderates to – you guessed it – a new party led by Lucke. That sounded like a brilliant move on Sunday night, when Lucke apparently tried to contact each of the 22,000 party members by means of his famous nightly missives, distributed via the party’s central data base of email addresses. But his co-party leaders Petry and Adam ordered some poor administrator to lock the party’s most famous face out of the system.

One of the main findings of my article is that at least until mid-2014, Lucke managed to dominate the (largely internet-based) communications of the AfD. He may now well regret the fact that he moved to Brussels/Strasbourg, presumably giving up some of this control. In the end, he managed to sent out his message, but the response has been underwhelming, and according to media reports, asymmetric: Much like the precursor “Deutschland-Resolution”, the “wake-up call” resonates even less in the East than in the West. His colleagues in the (somewhat diminished) national executive are now poking fun at Lucke, and for the first time, Petry seems to ponder the idea to run for the new, sole leadership post at the party conference. A formal split seems now all but inevitable, and my money is on a “liberal” exodus.

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