May 29, 2023

East afd on the rise – and many west germans at the controls

east afd on the rise - and many west germans at the controls

If you talk to afd functionaries from the eastern federal states these days, their mood is usually brilliant. The state and parliamentary group leaders are brimming with optimism and self-confidence in view of the upcoming elections in the fall.

"We will be the strongest force and form the government," says saxony’s afd leader jorg urban, for example, with an eye to the state parliamentary elections on 1. September in the free state.

Fact: the afd is currently much more successful in the east than in the west. This was shown again in the european elections in may: in saxony and brandenburg it became the strongest force. CDU and SPD are worried about the state elections in brandenburg, saxony and thuringia in september and october – even if no one wants to say so in front of the camera.

On sunday, the afd could pull off its next coup – winning the chair in the town hall of gorlitz. It was the first time that the afd had elected an oberburg mayor. Candidate sebastian wippel, a police superintendent by profession, was ahead in the first round of voting at the end of may with 36.4 percent of the vote and was able to keep his opponent from the CDU, octavian ursu (30.3 percent), at bay. Since the two candidates from the left-wing party and grunen are not running in the second round, a neck-and-neck race is expected.

"The CDU’s mistakes have made the afd strong," says wippel, who comes from gorlitz and used to be with the liberals. Wippel doesn’t see himself as a hardliner, and locates himself more in the moderate afd current alternative center. "I’m not worried that the afd has gone down a path that i can no longer support under any circumstances," says the 36-year-old. He does not, of course, show any particular sympathy for afd right-wing pigeon bjorn hocke.

In any case, the afd in saxony is moderate. The right-wing populists have been dreaming of power ever since the european elections, when they became the strongest party, just as they did in brandenburg. In the 2017 federal elections in saxony, the union, which is accustomed to success, had already been left behind – but only by a narrow margin.

Now the gap was a little more pronounced, at 2.3 percentage points. The union is seen as a suitable coalition partner for the saxon afd leadership. But only if it subordinates itself, says state party leader urban. The CDU leadership categorically rules out an alliance with the afd.

At the latest when the party leadership is newly elected at the federal party congress at the end of november, the eastern associations will also be allowed to convert their election successes into party posts. Two names have recently been heard more often when it comes to the question of who might replace party leader alexander gauland: andreas kalbitz, state and parliamentary party leader in brandenburg, and tino chrupalla, a member of the saxonian bundestag who won his mandate in gorlitz.

An afd chairman kalbitz would be hard to digest for some members, however, as he is one of the best-known members of the right-wing nationalist wing. He is an associate member of the current party executive committee.

"I think it would be good if east germany were well represented at the top of the afd, and mr. Chrupalla as a saxon is certainly not the worst choice," urban said recently at a press conference in berlin when asked about chrupalla.

What is behind the afd hype in the east?? Some observers believe that former GDR citizens who have already experienced a change of system may be more willing to question fundamental principles. However, the majority of the leading afd functionaries in the east do not come from there at all. Thuringia’s afd leader bjorn hocke spent his childhood and youth in rhineland-palatinate, while saxony-anhalt’s afd leader martin reichardt grew up in goslar, lower saxony. Kalbitz was born in bavaria.

Do you have to come from the east yourself to appeal to people in the new federal states?? "It’s serviceable," says jurgen pohl. Born in magdeburg, he is a member of the bundestag with a constituency in thuringia and the eastern policy spokesman for the afd parliamentary group. Kalbitz, who like him belongs to hocke’s right-wing nationalist wing, takes his side: "kalbitz has a pretty good nose for seeing where the problems are in the east. He’s been here long enough."

For urban, it doesn’t matter "where someone comes from in germany, if he is enthusiastic about saxony and just as enthusiastic about afd politics for saxony.". He just wants more women in the party.


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