EXTREMISMGermany: Far-Right AfD Conference Halted Amid Ukraine War Infighting

Published 20 June 2022

After struggling at recent state and federal elections, the far-right party failed to agree on its new foreign policy stance, particularly over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The party conference in Saxony broke up early.

The far-right Alternative for Germany’s party conference ended abruptly on Sunday amid a dispute over how critical a stance to take over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

The row, during the event in the eastern state of Saxony, was sparked by a resolution over the party’s foreign policy, particularly related to Europe.

The “Rethinking Europe” resolution called for improved ties with Moscow and only referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a conflict, never using the German word for war, Krieg.

It was put forward by the party’s influential and arguably most extreme right-wing figure, Björn Höcke, but encountered resistance from more moderate forces in the party and its leadership. 

Stronger Wording Demanded
Delegates from western Germany said the resolution’s text trivialized the invasion and should use a stronger term like Russia’s war of aggression.

Despite the party’s two co-leaders, Tino Chrupalla and Alice Weidel, requesting that the text be revised, they failed to achieve a majority by two votes among party delegates.

Weidel had said the proposed text included very “unspecific sentences,” which “also sound very rubbery,” in the sense of not being distinct or hard enough.

AfD Bundestag lawmaker and legal affairs spokesman Thomas Seitz bemoaned that the word war was used “not a single time,” and alleged that the proposed paper was guilty of “completely trivializing” the conflict. He said it would put the party in serious difficulty in western states. 

Meanwhile, Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, a state parliamentarian in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, said the paper included “precisely the terminology and the orientations that we should be sending abroad as our message.” He said the party should represent “the difference between globalists and nation states — that is the competition we are in, and that is clearly spelled out here.” 

The AfD enjoys its strongest support in the states that made up the former communist East Germany, where attitudes toward Russia also tend to be more positive. 

Agree to Disagree, One Day After Leadership Compromise
Shortly after the discussion, more than 55 percent of delegates agreed with a motion to end the conference earlier than planned without agreement.

The decision meant that plans for structural reform of the party, which Höcke had sought, and a proposal for the creation of AfD-friendly media outlets, were not discussed.

Chrupalla spoke of a “messy situation” during a “very controversial day,” but said he still hoped the conference would send a “signal of change” to voters after his reelection as co-leader a day earlier.

Chrupalla on Saturday fended off his slightly more moderate rival, Norbert Kleinwächter, gaining some 53.5 percent of the vote.

He then proposed the co-leader of the AfD’s parliamentary party, Alice Weidel, as party co-leader. She received 67.3 percent of the vote.

AfD Loses Appeal Among Voters
Höcke had declined to seek the party leadership, supporting Chrupalla instead, reportedly over concerns within the party that he could further alienate more moderate voters in western states where the AfD has been struggling in recent months.

The AfD, which has shifted ever more to the right since its beginnings as a euroskeptic party in 2013, has suffered increasingly poor results in federal and state elections, slipping from 12.6 percent support in the 2017 national election to 10.1 percent last year.

It has also suffered regional election losses in western states this year that many in the party attribute at least in part to its comparatively ambivalent posture on the war in Ukraine, which include its opposition to Germany sending weapons to the government in Kyiv. 

This article is published courtesy of Deutsche Welle (DW).