Federal Convention of the AfD: “There is no division”
Sat., June 20, 2020, 8:38 p.m.
Lommatzsch (dpa) – Kalbitz dispute, discussions about the content of the party, budget – on the list of the AfD federal convention in Lommatzsch, Saxony, there were numerous topics. The party leadership then consciously demonstrated unity.
“We discussed controversially, argued controversially as it should be for a democratic party,” said co-chair Tino Chrupalla. Nevertheless, the federal board worked closely together. “We are an AfD, there is no division,” he emphasized.
Federal head Jörg Meuthen has been under criticism within the party for some time – among other things because of the expulsion of the Brandenburg AfD head of state Kalbitz. An application to the Federal Convention had accused Meuthen of “irresponsible attempts to split up” and demanded personal consequences – but the delegates ultimately rejected it. According to information from party circles, 27 delegates voted against the motion, which was submitted by Armin-Paul Hampel, a member of the Bundestag. 23 delegates voted for the application.
Meuthen explained that the “Causa Kalbitz” was discussed in detail at the convention. There is a “vital culture of debate” in the AfD, but that doesn’t mean that you have to paint a split on the wall. Meuthen sees a majority in the party’s internal power struggle over the Kalbitz dispute. “I try – and with me the majority of the federal board – to keep the party together,” he emphasized. This includes a “clear firewall” towards the far right and right-wing extremism. The real splitters would be elsewhere.
Meuthen suffered a legal defeat on Friday: The Berlin Regional Court had declared the cancellation of Kalbitz’s membership by the Federal Executive Committee inadmissible. This allows the politician, who is considered to be a legal national, to exercise his rights as a party member and as a member of the federal executive committee until the decision of the AfD federal arbitration tribunal. Meuthen was confident on Saturday that the arbitral tribunal would revoke the member’s rights.
He said that the exclusion from Kalbitz was an “uncomfortable measure” that had to be taken. “We have knowledge that Kalbitz has a solidified right-wing past that he has never distanced himself from.” Kalbitz was one of the spokesmen for the right-wing national wing around Björn Höcke, Thuringia’s AfD state and parliamentary group leader.
AfD honorary chairman and Bundestag faction leader Alexander Gauland had previously expressed concern in the “Spiegel”: Since Meuthen had taken action against Kalbitz, he had been observing “genuine tendency towards disintegration in the party”. Björn Höcke also criticized Meuthen: “For the third time in our very young party history, one of our federal spokespeople wants to silence parts of the party or even force them out of the party,” wrote Höcke on Friday evening on Facebook – thereby alluding to Meuthen’s predecessors, Frauke Petry and Bernd Lucke. Tino Chrupalla had also voted against withdrawing Kalbitz membership.
Meuthen admitted different views on the federal board. “We are a party of pluralism of opinion”. Even if there was a “dissent” in the Kalbitz personnel, most of the decisions of the Federal Executive Board would still be made unanimously. “Even now in this critical phase.”
At the convention, several delegates were optimistic that the party-internal dispute could be resolved. “I don’t think there will be a split,” said Joachim Keiler, a member of the state parliament in Saxony. Nevertheless, Keiler admitted that the dispute of the past few weeks had meant that Meuthen had not necessarily improved his position.
AfD federal board member Carsten Hütter does not see his party facing a split. “No, I’m not afraid of that,” said the deputy federal treasurer on Saturday. However, the debate with a view to the Bundestag election next year must also be concluded: “The unity of the party and the public image of the party are important things that play a role for the voters.”
Meuthen also commented on allegations against him in connection with his campaign financing in 2016. According to the editorial network Germany (RND) and «Spiegel», it is a document in which a former campaign manager incriminated Meuthen. This was aware that the support from Swiss Goal AG was legally doubtful, it says. Meuthen dismissed: “I do not remember in any way that I made such statements.”
At first the federal convention had been canceled. The hotel, where the event was originally supposed to take place, had canceled the event after a nighttime attack in which panes broke. At the last moment the event was moved to Lommatzsch.
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