In my recent article on the Alternative für Deutschland party, I stress the fact that the AfD is built on an alliance of assorted right-wingers. With no upcoming election campaigns in sight, things have come to a head over the last months, and the various factions have set up
within the party. The fault lines run mostly along the lines of state-level parties, with the Eastern parties and Hesse taking the most clearly xenophobic/immigration sceptic positions, Baden-Württemberg and Schleswig-Holstein subscribing to Lucke’s “liberal” line, and the very large NRW state party being a wildcard.
Germany’s far-right parties have a penchant for tearing themselves apart, but even by their generous standards, the last months have been spectacular. Greece and the Euro crisis have returned to the agenda, yet the national and sub-national party leaders were largely distracted by mudslinging, blackmailing, and legal proceedings – at least that was the public perception. Although I consider myself an anorak, I have completely lost track of the allegations, counter-allegations and procedural tricks surrounding the party conference that was scheduled for June but later cancelled. God willing, however, the party faithful will gather next weekend in the “Grugahalle”, one of Germany’s largest indoor concert venues. In a departure from the original plan, the event will be organised as a conference open to all members willing to attend (widely seen as advantageous for Lucke), but will be held in the backyard of Markus Pretzell, one of Lucke’s chief adversaries.
Over the weekend, Lucke has declared that he does not like the label “economically liberal”, because he wants the AfD to stand for conservative values. Yesterday, he presented his candidate for the new office of a party manager: an openly gay man with Turkish roots. As far as mixed messages go, this is not a bad one. Predictably, the darker parts of the party’s Facebook faithful were outraged. In my humble opinion, the real issue of the conference is not if the party is “market liberal” or “national-conservative”. Rather, the question is if Lucke wins the power struggle for the party he created, and how xenophobic the party wants to appear. If Lucke prevails, the party will probably be to colourless to sustain its electoral success. If he leaves the party and is replaced by Petry, the AfD will lose an important “reputational shield” (h/t Liz Ivarsflaten) and also some of their rich backers. Either way, a party split (followed by electoral oblivion) is a real possibility. Watch this spot.