It is the farewell to political insignificance: the former long-standing federal chairman of the AfD, Jörg Meuthen, has switched to the Center Party. “The center is a party that stands for exactly where I see my political homeland,” said Meuthen on Friday. “Professedly conservative but not reactionary; liberal and patriotic, but free from dull nationalism; Christian social, but market economy.”

Meuthen was the federal chairman of the AfD between July 2015 and his exit from the party in January 2022. At first he made a long-term pact with the wing, which has since been officially dissolved and classified as a right-wing extremist effort by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Later he distanced himself from the current within the party.

However, he did not succeed in preventing further radicalization of the AfD. Meuthen is harsh on his longstanding political home today: the AfD is a “party in decline” that no longer has a chance of developing any national or European political significance. At most, as an East German regional party, they could still have a chance.

Meuthen does not want to accept that the Center Party still has significantly fewer chances of playing a role in federal politics. “We want to get into the parliaments,” he said as the goal. Since there is a large political representation gap, there is a chance for great growth. “It’s not about staying in nirvana on the spur of the moment.”

According to its own statements, the smallest party has around 500 members. It describes itself in the full party name as the oldest party in Germany, although the SPD’s predecessor, the General German Workers’ Association, had been founded seven years earlier, in 1863. In the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia in May of this year, she received just 0.06 percent with 4,162 second votes. The Christian-conservative party last ran in the Bundestag elections in 2009, 6087 second votes yielded only 0.01 percent.

Even political observers know the party more from history lessons at school. At the time of the German Empire and the Weimar Republic, the center provided the chancellor six times and achieved election results of up to 28 percent. The later Chancellor and CDU founder Konrad Adenauer was also a member of the Center Party. With Meuthen’s entry, the party is represented in the European Parliament for the first time. Since the entry of ex-AfD member Uwe Witt in January of this year, the party has been represented in the German Bundestag again since 1957. In addition, however, there are only a few municipal mandates in district councils and city councils in North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony.

Meuthen’s exit from the AfD was also extremely angry with his internal party supporters. Many members of the former Meuthen camp today hardly have a good word left for him, even behind closed doors. The camp, which is moderate by AfD standards, feels abandoned by its formerly most important representative. Meuthen’s departure has weakened this network as he is a strong rhetorician and adept speaker with a nationwide reputation. So far, the trend has not succeeded in building a similarly important successor.

The current party leader Tino Chrupalla has a good chance of being re-elected in the federal executive election in a week. Meuthen himself said on Friday that he no longer had close contacts with the AfD, but knew that some members were sitting on packed suitcases.

By joining the Center Party, Meuthen is taking a different path than two of his predecessors, who also left, as AfD federal chairmen. Frauke Petry and Bernd Lucke failed to found new parties: The Blue Party, founded by Petry in September 2017, was dissolved after just two years.

The Alliance for Progress and Awakening founded by Lucke in July 2015, which was later renamed Liberal-Conservative Reformers, won 0.02 percent of the second votes in last year’s federal elections. According to its own statements, Meuthen has “not seriously” thought about founding a new party. “I don’t think that’s promising.”

The center should not become a reservoir for former AfD members, Meuthen continued. “There will be no AfD 2.0 with me.”

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