The most important people

While the party had some 27,000 members as of late summer 2017, its party’s development and its political profile and agenda are largely shaped by…

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Chapter : The most important people

While the party had some 27,000 members as of late summer 2017, its party’s development and its political profile and agenda are largely shaped by a small number of individuals.

They occupy important positions in the party, have a power base in the form of their particular parliamentary faction, but also networks and more followers in other branches of the party.

When former party leader Bernd Lucke was toppled at the national party convention in summer 2015, some 3,000 members left the party in the weeks following.

Alice Weidel

Since that date, Jörg Meuthen and Frauke Petry have acted as speakers for the AfD at national level. Other important figures are Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel, nominated as the top candidates for the upcoming national elections, Björn Höcke and André Poggenburg, representing the far right wing of the party, and Markus Pretzell and Beatrix von Storch as the two remaining AfD members of the European Parliament.

Frauke Petry (*1975) is one of three party spokespeople since the foundation of the AfD. She has been the public face of the party for a long time, being invited to talk shows and covered not only by the news media but also by the gutter press.

She is a chemist (PhD) but her company went bankrupt in late 2013. She belongs to the national-conservative wing of the AfD and demanded, in an interview with the daily Mannheimer Morgen, that border police should shoot at refugees trying to cross the border “illegally”.

Petry also argued that the racist term völkisch should be used in a positive sense again. On abortion, she is in favour of a referendum to reduce pro-choice options. She gave birth to her fifth child in May 2017 and showed up with the baby on electoral posters. In August 2017, the Immunity Committee of the Saxon Landtag unanimously recommended the abolition of Petry’s immunity. Petry is currently accused of perjury, suspected of making false statements under oath before a parliamentary committee in November 2015.

Jörg Meuthen (*1961) is a professor of economics and was long seen as a neoliberal proponent in the party. He leads the AfD fraction in the parliament of Baden-Württemberg in which he was not able to organise the majority needed to expel the hard-boiled antisemite Wolfgang Gedeon.

On the occasion of the national party convention of the AfD in Stuttgart in April 2016, Meuthen declared: “We want to get away from a left-red-green contaminated Germany of the 68ers-movement, of which we are fed up.” To weaken the position of Frauke Petry in the party, he has allied himself with Alexander Gauland and Björn Höcke.

Alexander Gauland (*1941) looks back on a long political career, having been a member of the Christian Democrats from 1973 to 2013. He was head of the state chancellery in Hesse from 1987 to 1991, then acted as the editor of the daily Märkische Allgemeine Zeitung from 1991 to 2005. Both positions were anything but anti-establishment and give him very good “inside” knowledge of how politics and the media work.

His statement from the summer of 2016 that “people like Jérôme Boateng as a soccer player but do not want someone like him as neighbour” were openly racist.

He is the influential elder statesman of the AfD who has joined forces with Björn Höcke. He has also met Russian right-wing extremist Alexander Dugin and the Orthodox oligarch Konstantin Malofejev who has been organising European right-wing networks in support of Vladimir Putin.

Alice Weidel (*1979) only recently started to play an important role at the party’s national level when she was elected as top candidate of the AfD in April 2017, supported by the far right in the party, to offer a female alternative to Frauke Petry.

Weidel, who lived in China for six years, demands the return to the German Mark as the national currency. She sees no evidence for man-made climate change and strongly follows a neoliberal agenda as a member of the Friedrich von Hajek-Society to which also businessmen like Erich Sixt (car rentals) and Theo Müller (dairy products) belong.

Recently, she used the term cult of guilt which for decades has been utilised by the extreme right to argue that critically remembering Germany’s Nazi past impedes Germany from becoming a world power again.

Björn Höcke (*1972) is one of the most controversial figures in the AfD due to his Nazi-style rhetoric and extreme right-wing statements.

As the head of the AfD fraction in the Thuringian parliament, he also organized a series of demonstrations in Erfurt which attracted some 5,000 followers. In a speech, made in Magdeburg, he exclaimed that “Magdeburg and Germany not only have a history of thousand years” but that he “wants them to have a future of a thousand years”. This was widely understood as a reference to the term Tausendjähriges Reich used by the Nazis.

Other speeches to far right followers created further public outcries when he said that the sexual behaviour of people living in Africa and Europe are generically different (Nov. 2015) and that the German people is the only one that has built a monument to shame in the very heart of its capital (Jan 2017). He then drew the conclusion that remembrance of the Holocaust should change fundamentally.

Höcke has close connections to the right-wing extremist Götz Kubitschek who heads the far right Institut für Staatspolitik. Only recently Peter Tauber, the general secretary of the Christian Democrats, called Höcke a right-wing extremist also.

André Poggenburg (*1975) heads the AfD fraction in the parliament of Saxony-Anhalt and is member of the AfD’s federal executive board. In 2015, he co-authored the so-called Erfurt Resolution with Björn Höcke which became the basic policy document of the far right wing of the party.

After left-wing students protested against the AfD, he declared in early 2017 that “extreme left rags should and must be relegated from German universities and should better be brought to do manual labour instead of being a student.”

Referring to anti-fascist students, he further demanded that there should be measures “to finally get rid of this proliferation on the German people’s body (Volkskörper)”.

Taking part in an internal WhatsApp-Group to which more than the half of the AfD fraction belonged, he spread the slogan “Germany for the Germans” that is regularly used by the nazi NPD. Another contributor to the WhatsApp-Group, a police officer from Magdeburg, praised Ernst Roehm, the leader of the Nazis’ brown-shirted stormtroopers.

Marcus Pretzell (*1973) was elected to the European Parliament in 2014 where he is a member of the extreme right ENF faction. He voted against sanctions on Russia after the occupation of the Crimea and also against the ratification of the agreement of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris 2015.

Being the leader of the strongest AfD regional section – and also heading the AfD fraction in the parliament of North Rhine Westphalia – since summer 2017 gives him some influence in the party. In late 2016, he married Frauke Petry. They are widely seen as a duo that closely coordinates its action in the AfD.

Beatrix von Storch (*1971) is an aristocrat and member of the European Parliament where she belongs to the right-wing populist EFFD faction. Being a member of the neoliberal Friedrich von Hajek-Society, she did not want to be engaged in the ENF faction as she deemed the French Front National to be a “socialist party”.

In close cooperation with her husband, she is aggressively campaigning against equal rights for LGBTQI people and runs a broad coalition of NGOs that favours traditional family structures and pro-life politics. In late January 2016, she posted on Facebook that border police should use firearms against so-called illegal refugees including women. In 2009, she suggested on Facebook that “the oceans should be covered with concrete” as they are causing 95 % of CO2 emissions.


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