Why parts of the AfD now distance themselves from Björn Höcke

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With his attack on the federal board, AfD right-wing extremist Höcke has gone one step too far. The power struggle in the party is coming to a head.

The power struggle in the AfD goes into the next round. After the Thuringian AfD leader Björn Höcke attacked the party’s federal executive committee on the weekend, numerous AfD functionaries have now given vent to their anger. In an appeal “for a united and strong AfD” signed by more than 100 AfD politicians, it says: “With his speech at the Kyffhäuser meeting on Saturday, Björn Höcke violated the solidarity within the party and thus stabbed our campaigners and members in the back.

The majority of the members also reject the “excessively displayed cult of personality” around Höcke, as it was celebrated at the meeting of the “wing” on Saturday. The signatories, who include several dozen mandate holders, state: “the AfD is not and will not be a Björn-Höcke party”. Höcke should limit himself to his tasks in Thuringia.

“You are our leader”

What happened? Höcke is the spokesman for the ultra-right “wing” in the AfD, which is a suspected case of constitutional protection in the area of right-wing extremism. At the weekend the “wing” had met in Thuringia to celebrate its annual Kyffhäuser meeting with 800 guests.

“I will devote myself with great passion to the new election of the federal executive board,” Höcke announced threateningly. In its current composition, the party leadership will certainly not be re-elected at the end of the year, he promised. Special explosive contained the statement, since at present in numerous AfD regional federations the fight between moderates and radicals rages (all background to it read here).

In addition, many party colleagues were bothered by how humps were celebrated there. A flattering hump image video was played in his honor. Höcke then moved into the hall under heroic music and flag waving trailers.

One of his confidants even said, “You’re our leader and we’re willing to follow him.” Höcke gave his particularly loyal followers the silver “wing” badge. The criticism of him now refers as described to this personality cult and its lack of intra-party solidarity – but not to his political positions.

Gauland also distances himself

The signatories to the appeal include party vice-presidents Albrecht Glaser, Kay Gottschalk and Georg Pazderski. The Rhineland-Palatinate state leader Uwe Junge and the Lower Saxon AfD leader Dana Guth also signed the appeal, as did several members of the Bundestag. Not on the list are party leaders Jörg Meuthen and Alexander Gauland as well as faction leader Alice Weidel.

Meuthen said that he was not surprised by the appeal, as the displeasure about Höcke’s appearance and some of his remarks in the party was very audible. The “cult of personality” sometimes practised by Höcke does not fit in with the AfD. Gauland, who had called Höcke a “friend” in the past, also kept his distance. “I consider Björn Höcke’s speech as well as the flag retraction at the Kyffhäuser meeting to be inappropriate,” he told the news agency AFP. He did not sign the appeal, “because I consider it similarly inappropriate in election campaign times,” Gauland added. Faction leader Weidel also warned against digging trenches. There was no question that tensions had arisen within the party. But these tensions had to be resolved internally and without “public mud battles”.

Actually, the AfD is striving to get results of more than 20 percent in the state elections in the East this autumn and to become the strongest force in Saxony and Brandenburg. Inner-party disputes usually go down badly with voters.

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Mette Frederiksen is a The Washington Newsday correspondent. With her coverage of general science, NASA and the interface between technology and society, Frederiksen has been in the Science Desk's Technology Beat since joining Washington Newsday in 2018.

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