It’s over, finished, done: Maximilian Krah has been kicked out of the AfD’s federal executive board. The party’s top candidate for the European elections is also no longer allowed to stand. Political expert Wolfgang Schroeder explains what consequences this now has for the AfD.

The AfD has thrown its top candidate for the European elections, Maximilian Krah, out of the party leadership and banned him from appearing. He recently made headlines in connection with dubious payments from Russia, among other things. In addition, a close associate of Krah was arrested on suspicion of spying for China and has been in custody since then. His most recent misstep: In the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica” he said that not all members of the SS were criminals.

Political scientist Wolfgang Schroeder explains in an interview with FOCUS online what immense consequences this has for the party and what strategy lies behind this historic process, which is unique in Germany, of heading headlessly into the election campaign.

FOCUS online: Mr. Schroeder, were you surprised that the AfD’s top candidate for the European elections, Maximilian Krah, was kicked out of the AfD party leadership today?  

Wolfgang Schroeder: No, I wasn’t surprised. Maximilian Krah is an idiosyncratic politician who is difficult to integrate into an election campaign choreography and even more difficult into a party rationale. He is one of those AfD politicians who promote themselves and represent radical positions without considering the consequences for their party or for their colleagues in the party.                       

In the video: Krah is banned from appearing – the AfD’s top EU candidate is stopped by the party

The AfD chairmen Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla also banned Krah from appearing after his SS comments. Petr Bystron, the man in second place on the right-wing party’s electoral list, is also no longer allowed to appear due to suspicion of bribery from Russia. The AfD is therefore going headlong into the European election campaign. What does this mean for the party?

Schroeder: This move shows that the party is attracting attention by creating chaos. However, the AfD never won votes because of its leadership, but rather because of its loud and incisive criticism of the established parties. This headlessness is therefore less fatal for the AfD than for other parties. But even if it is not existential and threatens their existence, it is a small catastrophe to find themselves on the defensive in the election campaign through their own fault.  

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schroeder is a political scientist at the University of Kassel. Since 2022 he has been a member of the Council of the World of Work and chairman of the think tank The Progressive Center. Schroeder is also a member of the SPD’s Basic Values ​​Commission.

However, this historic process, which is unique in Germany, only brings disadvantages to the party overall. What is the party leadership’s strategy behind it?  

Schroeder: I don’t think they have a concrete strategy. The AfD is far from that. Weidel and Chrupalla act more as a defense center here and try to find situational answers to the self-inflicted emergency. What is striking is that her victim motive, which is otherwise so effective, doesn’t work. This is due to the fact that the normative sanctioning power is not the enemy state, but a friendly right-wing radical party, namely the Rassemblement. They just act reactively. And seem very shiny. However, it should also be taken into account that the AfD has been in a defensive position for some time now, without having managed to set new priorities or open up new perspectives.  

What does this mean for the AfD’s influence in the EU?  

Schroeder: It’s purely situational reactionary politics that the two party leaders are pursuing. And this comes right in the middle of the regrouping of the power centers of right-wing populists, right-wing extremists and national conservatives at the European level. Due to Krah’s behavior, it may be that the AfD no longer has any influence at all on the direction in which the large, strong forces from Italy, France, Hungary and Poland are now moving. This creates a crisis that the AFD has not yet really understood; They don’t really understand the damage that has been done.  

So what the AfD party leadership is now doing in the Krah case is more damage limitation?  

Schroeder: Yes, and it is also a form of self-assertion. Krah is like a bird that constantly destroys Weidel and Chrupalla. He doesn’t want to fit in with the party. His behavior would be an impertinence for any party leadership. And no party can accept this high-handedness and egocentric presentation. This means that for the sake of pure self-assertion, they have to make an effort to push this person to the sidelines or even exclude them.  

What’s next? What does this mean for the AfD’s European elections?  

Schroeder: For the EU election campaign, this means that the AfD has another strong flaw. At the same time, on the structural side, many continue to cling to it and support it and consider it important for expressing their anger and rejection of the political system. But if you find yourself on the defensive like this because of your own immaturity, you won’t have any tailwind in the election campaign because your own troops will then doubt your own party.  

Of course, in such a defensive position you are not particularly strong in drumming, i.e. in the campaign. And not by the critical public or the enemy state, but by their own people and a friendly right-wing radical party from abroad. This is a not insignificant burden that the AfD is currently experiencing, which could lead to further earthquakes.

Now Marine Le Pen, leader of the French Front National, has finally broken with the AfD because of Krah’s SS comments. It is said that the AfD will no longer be tolerated in the “Identity and Democracy” (ID) group of right-wing populist, nationalist and right-wing extremist European parties. How important were the Front National and Le Pen for the AfD?  

Schroeder: Normally the AfD exploits other policies, specifically what they see as established policies, to underpin their rejection of the political system. In this case, however, the AfD is being used by the Front National to legitimize its own position in the political spectrum. In this sense, the AfD is now just a tool for the National Front to prove that it is moving towards the center. This is a new situation for the AfD, which has sought to be a defining voice on the European right in recent years. Now it has greatly weakened and lost influence, and is unlikely to take a strong role in the European right-wing front in the foreseeable future.  

What does Maximilian Krah’s political future look like?  

Schroeder: I think he will no longer play an important political role in the AFD. Not so much because of his radical positions – that is certainly welcome in the AfD – but because of his unwillingness to be integrated into a particular policy or tactic. His lack of loyalty makes him an uncontrollable variable, regardless of whether the AfD follows a radical or moderate course.