EThe party leader not only gives up his post, he also leaves the party at the same time – that doesn’t happen every day in politics. But the fact that Jörg Meuthen is now turning his back on the AfD does not come as a complete surprise. Because last year, defeat followed defeat for the 60-year-old AfD chairman.
The youngest was only a few days ago. The AfD federal executive nominated the far-right, wandering CDU man Max Otte, a member of the so-called Union of Values, as the party’s candidate for the election of the Federal President on February 13. Meuthen had opposed it, but he was defeated on the board. He thinks the decision, with which the AfD wants to play a trick on the CDU, “is wrong in terms of content and strategically unwise,” Meuten said. Otte is by no means in the middle of the AfD.
Over the past year, Meuthen, who sits in the European Parliament, had to admit that support for him in the AfD was dwindling more and more. In a letter to party members in October, he announced that he would not run again for the presidency at the next party congress. In the previous two years, Meuthen had made a name for himself as the most determined advocate of a more moderate course for the AfD and campaigned against the more radical forces in the party. He also justified this by saying that the AfD would otherwise be observed overall by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
At first, Meuthen was successful. In the spring of 2020, he succeeded in getting the right-wing extremist “wing” dissolved on the federal executive board. A little later, with the help of a number of assessors, he was able to form a majority in the executive committee that supported the exclusion of the right-wing extremist and Brandenburg AfD boss Andreas Kalbitz from the AfD. Kalbitz was the organizational head of the “wing”, whose nominal leader is the Thuringian AfD boss Björn Höcke. However, Meuthen brought the most important federal politicians of the AfD against him: the co-party leader Tino Chrupalla from Saxony, the parliamentary group leader in the Bundestag Alice Weidel and also the then co-group leader Alexander Gauland.
But Meuthen went one step further. At the federal party conference in Kalkar in November 2020, he gave an angry speech against the radical forces in the AfD, “who are only too happy to scrawl and roll around”. To this end, he resolutely opposed the movement of lateral thinkers, who opposed the federal government’s corona policy. In this way, Meuthen polarized the entire party and misjudged the mood of some of his supporters.
In the months leading up to the general election, Meuthen then increasingly lost influence. In order to prevent his inner-party opponents Chrupalla and Weidel from running as top candidates, he relied on the Hessian member of the Bundestag Joana Cotar and the former Bundeswehr general Joachim Wundrak – but they clearly lost in a membership vote to Chrupalla/Weidel, who now also lead the new parliamentary group.
At the federal party conference of the AfD in April, the majority followed the right wing of the party, Björn Höcke. The party congress spoke out against Meuthen’s will for Germany to leave the EU, showed solidarity with the lateral thinkers and rejected corona tests and vaccinations. Meuthen was also no longer able to push through the exclusion of the AfD politician Matthias Helferich from North Rhine-Westphalia last summer in the federal executive board – Helferich had described himself in a chat as the “friendly face of the NS”.
Meuthen became party leader in 2015. At that time, the professor of economics was still a makeshift solution alongside the chairwoman Frauke Petry, who herself left the AfD two years later. Gradually he gained more influence and became probably the best speaker of the AfD. But Meuthen has also long made common cause with those whom he fought last. He attended the “wing” meetings at Kyffhäuser several times and also spoke in the think tank of the New Right, the institute for state politics in Schnellroda.