Anyone who complains about a shift to the right by the AfD in 2022 is late. It has been more than seven years since the first federal chairman, Bernd Lucke, left the party on the grounds that he did not want to be misused “as a bourgeois figurehead” for “xenophobic views” and a “pro-Russian foreign policy”.
The then co-chairwoman Frauke Petry followed him after the 2017 federal election, speaking of a “radicalization”. Jörg Meuthen, who was also party leader at the time, resigned in January of this year on the grounds that parts of the party were “not based on the free-democratic basic order”.
When the AfD met for the federal party conference in Riesa in mid-June, the former Meuthen camp could not occupy a single seat in the new party leadership. The far-right party leader Tino Chrupalla almost completely pushed his team through for the new federal executive board. The right-wing extremist, formally dissolved wing also achieved success at the delegates’ meeting.
Since then, the AfD has lost more members. As of Tuesday, there are only 28,636 members left. A year ago, the party stated its membership at 31,000. Losses also include terminated memberships due to non-payment or death. According to an AfD spokesman, 98 members have resigned since the Riesa party conference. According to this, at least 26 of these members have left the party due to internal party processes or for political reasons. All others gave personal or no reasons.
What is special: Among those who have left are not just ordinary members, but also numerous municipal elected representatives.
A particularly large number of resignations from elected representatives come from Lower Saxony of all places. A new state parliament will be elected there in October. With Christopher Emden, the exit wave there even affects a member of the state parliament. The letter of resignation from the beginning of July is available to WELT.
It says: “The party is developing into a gathering place for losers, gangsters and the less well-off.” And further: “This party is not an alternative, it is the abyss for Germany.” It is “not just dispensable, it is due to the increasing Radicalization of many members is even dangerous for our country,” Emden continued. Shortly before, Emden had unsuccessfully applied for a promising place on the list at the nomination meeting for the state elections.
Read the full text of Christopher Emden’s resignation letter here
Two previous direct candidates for the upcoming state elections have also left the party. The direct candidate in the Cloppenburg constituency, Hans-Ulrich Böckmann, also resigned in early July shortly after an unsuccessful application for a place on the list. Shortly thereafter, the previous direct candidate for the Cloppenburg-Nord constituency, Markus Kühter, turned his back on the party – without giving a reason.
Jens Schmitz and Ludger Vahle, the only members of the district council in Emsland in Lower Saxony, resigned last week. The AfD is drifting “further to the right” in the federal and state governments, Schmitz told WELT. Schmitz is a former board member of the AfD district association Ems-Vechte. He agrees with the sharp criticism of Emden, a member of the state parliament: “In Lower Saxony, the AfD is merely a gathering place for narcissists and opportunists,” he says. It is only about the financial benefits of individuals, political work is completely neglected. “‘Retirement provision for Debile’ (AfD) is more accurate in Lower Saxony.”
In the future, there will no longer be an AfD representative on the council of the joint municipality of Harpstedt (district of Oldenburg). Councilor Dayne Conrad resigned from the party the week before last. “The moderate course, which I always represented within the AfD, has no longer been represented at the top of the party since Meuthen left,” said Conrad WELT. “I would have wished for a clear commitment to a socially and coalition-capable course.” Overall, however, the Lower Saxony AfD gained almost 20 new members this month.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, too, several local politicians have recently resigned. In Mönchengladbach, for example, three city councilors from the previously four-strong parliamentary group left the AfD at the beginning of July. They joined the conservative Christian Center Party, which ex-AfD leader Meuthen joined in mid-June. “Unfortunately, conservative-bourgeois members no longer have any design options given the increasingly manifest orientation of the AfD towards the ethnic-national spectrum,” said City Councilor Corina Bülow.
When he joined the Center Party, Meuthen announced that it should not become a gathering place for former AfD members. In an interview with WELT, he now said that almost 20 former AfD members had been admitted to the center since he joined. “Of course there were more inquiries. But we are taking a very restrictive approach here,” says Meuthen. “We don’t want to become what the AfD failed. The AfD is now so far to the right that the observation by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution is no longer surprising.”
Center party leader Christian Otte answered the request with a different number. Since Meuthen’s accession, “about 50 members with former AfD affiliations have joined the party, including ten municipal elected representatives,” he said. A further 15 membership requests from ex-AfD members were rejected. Twelve former AfD members, including six municipal elected representatives, are currently in the admissions process.
In Kempen, too, the AfD loses its only elected representative. As the “Rheinische Post” reported last week, city councilor Peter Müller left the party, partly because of statements by member of the Bundestag Matthias Helferich, who described himself in leaked chat messages as the “friendly face of the Nazis”.
According to WELT information, Gabriele Walger-Demolsky, member of the North Rhine-Westphalian state parliament and wing critic until May 2022, also resigned after the federal party conference in Riesa. The same applies to the head of the member administration department within the AfD federal office – he resigned and resigned.
The state chairman of the NRW-AfD, Martin Vincentz, said that his state association has not recorded a significant number of entries or exits since the party conference. Media-effective resignations are less a well-founded analysis of the party’s situation, but “usually ascribed to great displeasure about personal failure or local events or the attempt to socially rehabilitate oneself from very negative representations of the AfD”. The party conferences have never taken all currents equally into account. “However, this does not justify a general shift to the right.”
The AfD also lost city council members in Leinefeld-Worbis in Thuringia and in Wriezen in Brandenburg this month. A founding member of the AfD also left the party after the federal party conference. The long-standing President of the Federal Arbitration Court, Monica-Ines Oppel, resigned at the end of June, as reported by the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” and “taz”.
For the first time, Oppel is now making her reasons public. “The AfD showed the liberal conservatives the red card with their personnel decisions and programmatic discussions at the federal party conference in Riesa, without any reason. This party has thus started its journey into political insignificance,” she told WELT. Many other “Liberal Conservatives”, as the comparatively moderates in the party call themselves, have gradually lost confidence in the AfD’s power to change.
AfD party leader Alice Weidel said that every former member had their own personal and private reasons for leaving. “However, it cannot be concluded from the number of resignations that former members no longer agree with the policies of the AfD.”
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