AfD: lost another state election or more?

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The right-wing populists lost the 2022 state elections in Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia. With their themes of refugees and Corona, there is little that can be done in times of war.

The AfD and its chairman Tino Chrupalla have seen better days

Twice narrowly in, once even outside – the Alternative for Germany (AfD) seems to have forgotten how to win in the three state elections since the beginning of 2022. In the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, only 5.4 percent voted for the party. There were hardly more in Saarland (5.7). And in Schleswig-Holstein, the AfD even fell short of the five percent hurdle with 4.4 percent.

In Schleswig-Holstein, the AfD was kicked out of a parliament for the first time

This was the first time that the AfD was thrown out of a state parliament after having been successful in elections in all 16 federal states at breakneck speed since it was founded in 2013. In the 2017 federal election, it even advanced to become the strongest opposition faction with 12.6 percent. Many experts are convinced that it would be premature to classify the party as a phased-out model because of its current downward trend.

< p>That's what political scientist Manès Weisskircher told DW. Although the decreasing public importance of the migration issue is certainly unfavorable for the AfD, they managed to re-enter the Bundestag elections in 2021 with ease. In fact: the result was 10.3 percent, like the premiere in 2017 (12.6).

Party leader Tino Chrupalla is dissatisfied

Against this background, Weisskircher believes that a trend reversal is possible at any time. A new topic could also strengthen the AfD again in the medium term, “for example a change in public opinion about the war refugees from Ukraine or lasting economic problems,” said the political scientist. At the moment, however, the party is primarily concerned with itself.

He was “anything but satisfied” with the result in the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, says AfD leader Tino Chrupalla. Nevertheless, the goal remains “that we also want to achieve double-digit results in the old federal states”. In western Germany, the right-wing populists are nowhere near as strong in elections as in the eastern federal states.

The differences between west and east are increasing

There, in the territory of the former GDR, the AfD is much more influential with results of well over 20 percent in some cases. From the point of view of the political scientist Manès Weisskircher, the results of the most recent state elections, as well as the federal elections in 2021, show one thing above all: “that the west-east differences in the electoral strength of the AfD are even increasing”.

Watch the video 03:04

After the federal election: AfD establishes itself in eastern Germany

In the old federal states, the alternative for Germany found no effective strategies “to mobilize voices when the issue of migration is not on the agenda”. In addition to the strong east-west differences, there are also considerable and often neglected north-south differences, says the AfD expert. The right-wing populists in the north are significantly weaker in both the new and the old federal states than in the south.

AfD issues: war, corona, personnel

Manès Weisskircher was by no means surprised that the AfD was kicked out of parliament for the first time in the state elections in Schleswig-Holstein – “especially not in the current political context”. The political scientist is alluding to the Ukraine war unleashed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. A problem for the AfD, in which there are traditional currents that make no secret of their proximity to Russia. A parallel to southpaw Marine Le Pen in neighboring France.

Watch the video 02:23

Members of the Bundestag end their trip to Russia

Dealing with Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine is another internal conflict within the AfD, “which the party is also conducting publicly,” says political scientist Weisskircher. He reminds of other points of contention, for example in the corona pandemic and the relationship to the “lateral thinking” movement. But there are also disputes in economic and social policy. Not to forget: the personnel and thus power issues.

Party leader misses support in the executive board He says openly about his former companion that he “had to work with Mr. Meuthen in a rather destructive manner”. Meanwhile, it seems to be completely open whether Chrupalla can count on being re-elected at the party conference in Riesa (Saxony) in June.

Board member Joana Cotar and others are already openly calling for his resignation after the long series of lost elections: “The success story of the AfD ended with Tino Chrupalla. He neither represents the entire party nor does he convince the voters.”

Watch the video 03 :33

Meuthen gives up: conversation with the political scientist Wolfgang Schroeder

However, the party leader, who has been in office since 2019, leaves no doubt that he wants to run. He is the only socialized East German on the federal executive board – “and should he be to blame for the poor election results of the last two years?”. Again and again he drew attention to the different social characteristics. “All in all, I have to say: yes, I missed the support of this national board.”

On the trail of the left?

Party insider Manès Weisskircher believes that the permanent leadership dispute could be decisive for the eligibility of the AfD and thus its stability in the medium term. “The Left is providing you with a cautionary tale.” For the party at the other end of the political spectrum, the record so far in the 2022 state elections is just as depressing: it failed to enter parliament every time.

Experts such as political scientist Manès Weisskircher assess the AfD as “populist radical right-wing extremists

In comparison, the AfD got off with a black eye. Tino Chrupalla seems to have heard the warning shot when he says: “Of course we have to work on our image.” But you can't make a change in a month or two – “that takes time, that needs discipline, which I demand”. However, it seems questionable whether the majority of the party will follow him on this path. If Chrupalla falls, the right-wing extremist AfD leader in Thuringia, Björn Höcke, could possibly take over the party leadership.

The Office for the Protection of the Constitution is watching closely

Political expert Manès Weisskircher has taken stock of the development of the AfD since 2015 therefore with the label “populist right-wing extremist”. This is how parties like the FPÖ in Austria and the Lega in Italy – or their counterpart in Germany – are usually described in international specialist literature. Here, the AfD is now considered so dangerous that it is being observed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Not a good recommendation for the last state election in 2022 in October in Lower Saxony, where the AfD did not achieve an excellent result in 2017 with 6.2 percent.