For months, everything in the AfD has revolved around this party conference: When the radical right-wing party meets in Riesa, Saxony, from Friday, it is not only about the election of the new party leadership, but also about which course the ailing party will take in the future . It is about a strategy for their political survival.
But before the party congress, the nerves in the party are on edge. On Wednesday, the Federal Arbitration Court ruled that the 25 Berlin delegates were not allowed to travel to Riesa. The reason: the election of the delegates should not have been legal.
What may not sound like a big deal at first could have a big impact. If the majority is tight, the absence of the Berlin delegates could affect the outcome of the elections to the party executive.
In addition, the process could mean the end for the second most important woman in the AfD: Beatrix von Storch. The right-wing networker has been involved at the top of the party since 2015 and has always known how to stay there. But the judgment of the Federal Arbitration Court could end her career.
Von Storch is accused of having added three candidates to the list of candidates at the Berlin state party conference, which was supposed to choose the delegates for the federal party conference, after it had already been closed. An unsuccessful applicant then challenged the election. The Federal Arbitration Court, like the State Arbitration Court before it, came to the conclusion that the election of the Berlin delegates was invalid. The brief, which is available to the Tagesspiegel, also states that the previous selection of delegates cannot be sent as a substitute.
So did von Storch try to cheat? Or did she, as she states, only notice that three applicants were missing from the electronic list and had them added in good time? In any case, the 51-year-old will be blamed for the fact that the Berlin delegates are not allowed to take part in the federal party conference. Party colleagues consider it unlikely that von Storch will again be elected to a prominent position on the federal executive board.
This is another reason why allies suspect that the verdict of the arbitral tribunal could be politically motivated. “She has made too many enemies,” says a party insider. Some even suspect an intrigue: Many of the Berlin delegates counted themselves among the “moderate” party current in the AfD – their absence was supposed to help the right-wing extremist, officially dissolved “wing” in the AfD.
The Berlin state board has submitted an urgent application to the district court for an injunction to allow the delegates after all. But the regional court rejected the application according to Tagesspiegel information.
The dispute over the Berlin delegates occupies the AfD ahead of what is perhaps the most important party conference in recent times. After the departure of their long-standing party leader Jörg Meuthen, the election of the new party leadership is a directional decision. Tino Chrupalla, who has led the AfD alone since Meuthen’s departure and is supported by the extreme right “wing”, has already presented his team. However, the comparatively moderates in the party want to prevent his re-election or at least want as many of their camps as possible to be represented on the future federal executive board. But after some from the camp of self-proclaimed moderates openly attacked Chrupalla, ranks closed behind the party leader.
The quarrels and camp fights are not the only problem that the AfD wants to solve. Because the voter base is crumbling. In the last nine state elections, the AfD lost percentage points. The times when the AfD received votes from the protest voters’ camp as if by themselves are over. This is also due to the fact that the radical right-wing party lacks a mobilization theme. Many non-voters who used to give the AfD its success stayed back at the elections in North Rhine-Westphalia or Schleswig-Holstein.
What is disputed in the party, however, is how to stop the decline. While some believe that the recipes of the radical East German associations must be copied, others blame precisely these radical policies and right-wing extremists like Björn Höcke for the failures.
Another point of contention in the party is Russia policy. His opponents accuse Tino Chrupalla of his pro-Russia policies. On February 27, three days after the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, he thanked Moscow for German unity at the lectern of the Bundestag. At the party congress, the AfD could now make exactly this pro-Russian attitude the official line. A motion submitted by Höcke, among others, calls for a resolution to lift the sanctions against Russia and not to expand NATO to the east.
In any case, Höcke will try to put his stamp on the party congress. So he promotes the establishment of a commission to prepare a “party structural reform”. Höcke, it is suspected, could then try to become head of this commission in order to push ahead with the restructuring of the AfD according to his ideas and to make party exclusion procedures more difficult.