In the internal AfD power struggle over the expulsion of right-winger Andreas Kalbitz, parliamentary group leader Alexander Gauland has questioned the political future of party leader Jorg Meuthen.
A deep rift is running through the party executive, Meuthen’s co-leader Tino Chrupalla spoke of a discord that is perceived as "self-cutting". In the midst of this dispute over direction, Pegida frontman Lutz Bachmann announced his intention to become a member of the AfD in Saxony. Bachmann has multiple convictions – including for incitement of the people.
Gauland, who is also the AfD’s honorary chairman, believes the legal clarification of Kalbitz’s party expulsion will also decide the political fate of the party’s top leadership. "If Mr. Kalbitz should not get right, before the party court or a regular court, then that is just so. But if he is proven right, then it will be difficult for those who set it off," Gauland told Der Spiegel magazine. In the dpa interview, he said Kalbitz would most likely succeed with the challenge. "I have great doubts that the board’s decision will finally hold."
The AfD’s federal executive board had declared Kalbitz’s membership null and void a week ago at Meuthen’s instigation by majority vote. The reason given was that Kalbitz had not declared membership in the now banned "Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend" (HDJ) and the Republicans. Kalbitz, along with Hocke, is considered the most important representative of the party’s formally disbanded right-wing nationalist "wing," which is monitored by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution as an extreme right-wing current.
Meuthen continues to be calm. "I know the talk that I would succeed Bernd Lucke and Frauke Petry," the AfD leader told Der Spiegel, alluding to two predecessors in the party leader’s office who were voted out in wing wars. "But that will not happen."
Kalbitz accused Meuthen and party vice chair Beatrix von Storch of pursuing self-serving goals with his ejection. "In reality, it’s all about the top candidacy of Meuthen and von Storch for the upcoming federal election," Kalbitz told "Der Spiegel". He was "only the pawn in this game".
The two co-leaders Meuthen and Chrupalla are now openly working against each other. This is shown in a circular letter from Meuthen to the members of the party, to which an attachment from Chrupalla is attached.
Meuthen explained in Thursday’s email why a majority of the board had decided to declare Kalbitz’s membership null and void. Up to now, the board has refused to clearly distance itself from the HDJ, which, according to a ruling by the Federal Administrative Court, has a "congeniality with National Socialism". In addition, Kalbitz had concealed a previous membership in the Republicans when he joined the party.
Chrupalla, in turn, explains that although the letter to members was decided by a majority of the board, he himself still believes that it would have been better to first obtain a "meaningful legal opinion" on the question of the revocation of Kalbitz’s party membership.
The board, however, had not responded to this and had thus "accepted the expected inner-party disputes, which are perceived in public as the AfD’s self-defeat". Chrupalla’s letter was joined by party deputy chairmen Alice Weidel and Stephan Brandner, and assessors Stephan Protschka and Gauland.
There is new unrest around Pegida progenitor Bachmann. He had – like any other citizen – the right to apply for membership in the AfD, the spokesman for the AfD Saxony told dpa. The responsible district association would lead a discussion about the admission like with other members. "If there is disagreement about this, the admission will be discussed in the AfD regional board of Saxony and finally decided."
Bachmann had published a screenshot of the membership application filled out online on Thursday. "If it is necessary for this to resign as chairman of Pegida, I will do it and in the future as a guest speaker – I guess I have the right – to appear!", it said in the post. The co-founder of the Islamophobic and xenophobic Pegida movement called the AfD a "party of grassroots democracy".
The AfD’s incompatibility list includes the Pegida movements in Munich, Franconia and Nuremberg, but not the Pegida movement founded in Dresden in 2014. The relationship between Pegida and the AfD is seen as ambivalent. Until now, the AfD Saxony refused to close ranks. Again and again, however, AfD politicians appear at Pegida demos, for example, the Thuringian AfD leader Bjorn Hocke spoke in February at the 200. Pegida rally in Dresden.