Posts Tagged ‘Jörg Meuthen’

Is Germany’s Extreme-Right AfD Falling Apart? Or Beaten Into Submission?

January 11, 2019

The far-right Alternative for Germany may be unravelling at the edges after a disgruntled member struck off on his own. That’s bad news for the populists ahead of key elections, says DW political analyst Jefferson Chase.

Shattered glass in front of AfD office

There is now even more right-wing alternative to the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

On Thursday, the former party leader in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, Andre Poggenburg, resigned his party membership. Only hours later, the far-right hardliner announced that he is forming a party of his own, the “Aufbruch deutscher Patrioten” (Uprising of German Patriots), to compete with the AfD.

Poggenburg was one of the more extreme nationalist and xenophobic leaders within the AfD, which twice censured him for using language reminiscent of right-wing extremism. He has close ties to the radical Identitarian and Pegida movements. And for much of his career he was also an ally of Thuringian AfD leader Björn Höcke, who is regarded as one of the main motors behind the AfD’s ethnic-nationalist hardline wing and who has often been accused of anti-Semitism.

In 2016, Poggenburg became the leader of the opposition in the Saxony-Anhalt regional parliament, but stepped down last year from that position and as regional party leader following controversial anti-Turkish remarks. The emblem of Poggenburg’s new party, a blue cornflower, has been criticized for having right-wing extremist and Nazi connotations.

Reaction to Poggenburg’s defection among AfD members has been mixed. Some hardliners have rued his departure, while members of the relatively moderate Alternative Mitte group have welcomed it. Regional parliamentarian Uwe Junge, for instance, tweeted: “Andre Poggenburg is leaving the AfD! Finally. I hope he takes all the extremist fools and self-proclaimed patriots with him.”

Uwe Junge, MdL


André Poggenburg verläßt die AfD!
Endlich – ich hoffe, er nimmt den ganzen Narrensaum und die selbst ernannten Patrioten mit! , !  via @junge_freiheit

André Poggenburg verläßt die AfD

Der frühere AfD-Landes- und Fraktionschef von Sachsen-Anhalt, André Poggenburg, ist aus der Partei ausgetreten. Am Donnerstag abend erklärte er in einer E-Mail an die AfD-Bundesgeschäftsstelle den…

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A limit to the AFD’s move right?

The 43-year-old may not have been universally liked within the AfD, but party leaders have to be concerned that Poggenburg’s supporters could follow him and defect — a scenario that has some precedent.

The Alternative for Germany was founded in 2013 primarily in opposition to European monetary union. But a lack of electoral success shifted the focus to hostility toward mass migration. Co-founder Bernd Lucke was replaced by the far more conservative Frauke Petry as party head in 2015.

That shift roughly coincided with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision not to close Germany’s borders as large numbers of refugees and migrants began arriving from Syria, Northern Africa, Afghanistan and other places. That brought a surge of support for the AfD from Germans who feared that large-scale migration would threaten their way of life and the country’s traditions.

A protest organized by the AfD, and the Pegida and “Pro Chemnitz” movements | John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images

Since 2015, the AfD has moved further and further to the nationalist, some might say racist right, guided by such figures as current party co-leader Alexander Gauland, Höcke and Poggenburg. That evolution has come to the dismay of more moderate AfD members, including Petry, who became increasingly marginalized in the run-up to the 2017 German federal election.

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Frauke Petry

The party recorded an impressive 12.6 percent of the national vote and eventually became the main opposition party in the Bundestag. The triumph prompted Gauland to promise to “hound” Merkel and Germany’s traditional political parties.

But the day after the vote, Petry and her supporters quit the AfD. That meant the parliamentary group immediately lost three seats. Petry subsequently formed the Blue Party, but it has yet to contest any elections and has attracted very few members.

Potential damage in eastern elections

The schism with Poggenburg and his supporters could be far more damaging than the split with the Petry. For starters, this is the first time that a rival group has formed to the right of the AfD. And it comes as the party had hoped to kick start its stalled momentum with three regional elections in its stronghold of eastern Germany: Saxony and Brandenburg on September 1 and Thuringia on October 27.

After becoming Germany’s third-largest party at national level in 2017, the AfD failed to dramatically increase its support in regional elections in 2018. The populists came in a distant third with just over 10 percent of the vote in Bavaria and fourth in Hesse with slightly more than 13 percent.

The AfD continues to attract some 13.5 percent support in opinion polls, but the far-right populists have been outstripped by the Greens who have been polling 18 to 20 percent.

The AfD does attract 20 to 25 percent support in the east, but splits like those with Petry and Poggenburg could see erosion on both ends of the AfD’s spectrum of voters. Petry, who is from Saxony and won her constituency outright there in 2017, could siphon off moderates. Poggenburg, who was also born and bred in the formerly Communist east, could take away some hardline far-right and extremist voters.

Many mainstream political analysts have predicted, perhaps with an admixture of wishful thinking, that the tug-of-war between relative moderates and hardliners could rip the AfD apart at the seams. That remains a very hypothetical scenario — at the time of writing, Poggenburg’s new party has a grand total of ten Twitter followers.

But arguably more than any other German party, the AfD’s appeal relies on the perception that it represents a popular movement that is inexorably growing in strength. The latest discord undercuts the idea of the AfD as a truly viable alternative.


Damaged AfD office in Döbeln following explosion (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Willnow)

Police authorities said “an unknown substance was detonated” on Thursday at around 7:20 p.m. local time (620 UTC) in front of the building that houses the offices of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Saxon city of Döbeln.

Doors and windows of the building hou


Populists’ Advance in Germany Jolts Europe — Stinging defeat for Angela Merkel’s conservatives

September 6, 2016

Stinging defeat for Angela Merkel’s conservatives in state election points to further political tumult across continent

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday in Hangzhou, China, where she said  her government needs to ’win back trust’ from a public following a loss in a state election Sunday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday in Hangzhou, China, where she said her government needs to ’win back trust’ from a public following a loss in a state election Sunday. PHOTO: ZUMA PRESS

BERLIN—Growing populist forces shook Europe’s pillar of stability this weekend, as an unprecedented defeat for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in Germany signaled more political tumult across the continent.

For the first time in postwar history, Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats finished behind a populist challenger to their political right in a state election. Riding a wave of discontent with her migration policy, the Alternative for Germany—a three-year-old anti-immigrant party—beat the chancellor’s party in her home state, spurring her allies to debate Monday whether she should change course.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel today said 'we still have a lot to do to regain our (party's) confidence

Beyond Germany, more political crossroads are approaching that could jolt Europe—as the migrant influx, terrorism fears, and antiestablishment sentiment complicate the recovery from years of economic problems.

A week from Sunday, an election in the city-state of Berlin is likely to deliver Ms. Merkel another setback, according to opinion polls. Two weeks after that, polls show voters in Austria’s second-round presidential election could crown postwar Western Europe’s first right-wing, populist head of state.

Later in the fall, Italy faces a constitutional referendum seen as an up-or-down vote on Premier Matteo Renzi’s pro-European government. And in December, Spain could face its third parliamentary elections in a year if its troubles in forming a government persist—a symptom of the same political fragmentation and antiestablishment sentiment dogging much of Europe.

Every populist success in one European country appears to be emboldening the populists in the next. “That which was impossible yesterday has become possible,” French nationalist leader Marine Le Pen wrote in a Twitter post late Sunday after the initial results of the populist Alternative for Germany, or AfD, came in. “The patriots of the AfD have swept away the party of Ms. Merkel. All my congratulations!”

Polls show Ms. Le Pen is likely to make it into the second round when France votes for a president in the spring.

The political turbulence has added to the challenges weighing on Europe’s economies, which, to the exception of Germany’s, remain anemic despite the European Central Bank’s years of ultra-easy monetary policy. In turn, the bank’s strategy, including large-scale bond purchases and negative interest rates, has sparked mounting complaints in Germany, in part because of its ill effects for the country’s millions of savers.

In an example of political and economic uncertainty feeding on each other, Germany’s finance minister said earlier this year that the ECB had contributed to the Alternative for Germany’s rise.

Amid the drama, European politicians will be closely watching events across the English Channel in Britain as a barometer of the consequences of turning away from the EU. It was in the U.K. that antiestablishment populists have scored their biggest success so far this year, winning the referendum to quit the European bloc.

A string of data there suggests the British economy appears to be regaining its footing following the Brexit vote—including a survey published Monday showing the U.K.’s powerhouse services sector bounced back to growth in August following a July slump.

The precise contours of the political debate differ across Europe, but the mounting disaffection with the establishment—often in favor of immigration, greater EU integration, and free trade—echoes from country to country.

Another major point of contention—refugee policy—has put Germany at the debate’s epicenter, after the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers since early last year. The three-year-old AfD has made opposition to Ms. Merkel’s acceptance of refugees the centerpiece of its campaigns, riding public disaffection with the chancellor to the biggest electoral gains by an upstart right-wing party in Germany in decades.

Its second-place finish behind the incumbent Social Democrats in the sparsely populated eastern state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania on Sunday marked one of the AfD’s most striking advances yet.

With slogans such as “Politics for our own people!” the AfD finished with 20.8% of the vote, ahead of the 19% won by Ms. Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats, traditionally the big-tent home for conservatives in a country long wary of nationalist populism. The AfD will now hold seats in nine of Germany’s 16 powerful state parliaments, building momentum ahead of the Berlin election later this month and the national election in September 2017.

In response to the regional defeat, the chancellor acknowledged the need to give Germans more confidence that the government had things under control, but said her migration policy remained on track. “I believe the fundamental decisions we made in the past months were right, but we have much to do to win back trust,” she said on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting of economic powers in Hangzhou, China.

In recent months, her government has sought to speed deportations of rejected asylum applicants and negotiated with Turkey to successfully stem the flow of Middle Eastern migrants across the Aegean Sea. Nevertheless, exit polls showed that the AfD drew voters from across the political spectrum in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania who were mainly motivated by the refugee issue and who wanted to send a message of discontent to the established parties.

“People have a diffuse feeling that the state no longer has this challenge under control,” said Mike Mohring, the Christian Democrats’ party chairman in the state of Thuringia. “More than anything, it’s a question of emotions and of rhetoric.”
AfD leaders, meanwhile, sounded emboldened. National co-chairman Jörg Meuthen said the party’s long-term goal was “to govern in this country.” AfD officials promised that Sunday’s vote spelled the beginning of the end of her chancellorship. Ms. Merkel has yet to announce whether she will seek a fourth term in Germany’s national elections next year, but a strong AfD showing in the national vote would likely complicate her efforts to form a new governing coalition.

“One cannot act in politics against the people, against the will of the people,” lawmaker Hans Michelbach, a conservative ally of Ms. Merkel, said Monday, urging her to be more responsive to public criticism of her refugee policy. “One must of course also take the concerns and fears of the people seriously.”

A tumultuous political season is in store for the rest of Europe as well: Austria’s October runoff election for president, a largely symbolic post, could be won for the first time by a right-wing populist, Norbert Hofer, according to polls.

In November, Italy is expected to hold a plebiscite on a constitutional reform aimed at creating more stable governments that has emerged as a referendum on Mr. Renzi, who has tried to rally support for the EU. The likely beneficiary if the referendum fails and Mr. Renzi resigns: the populist 5 Star Movement, founded by comic Beppe Grillo, which has surged to about 30% in the polls and whose left-right politics reflect the breadth of anger among Italians at their political class.

Meanwhile, Spain is struggling to form a government, despite two parliamentary elections since last December. The problem: two upstarts, including left-wing populists Podemos, have fragmented the political landscape and blocked efforts by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to negotiate a governing coalition. If the quagmire drags on, Spain faces yet another election this December.

—Andrea Thomas contributed to this article.

Write to Anton Troianovski at