The AfD is trying to capture the protests against the corona rules. The success so far has been moderate – also because the internal power struggle paralyzes the party.
In Stuttgart she sensed AfD their great opportunity. Nowhere else in the past few weeks have there been so many people protesting against the Corona rules as here, but this weekend the previous applicant decided not to demonstrate again. So the top right-wing populists wanted to take over: Alice Weidel should be there when the motto is “Give us back our fundamental rights”.
But the plan failed. The city banned the AfD demo on Thursday. Reason: A violent conflict is to be expected, in which a minimum distance could hardly be maintained, said a spokesman.
It was the AfD’s latest attempt to capture the ongoing corona protests despite easing. After European politics, refugees and climate protection, the party hopes to be able to occupy another subject area in order to open up new milieus for itself and to bind the existing supporters to itself in difficult times. A survey by the Allensbach Institute for the “FAZ” shows that it is possible to mobilize your own clientele to criticize the Corona measures. According to this, 91 percent of AfD supporters feel the interventions are too serious.
“In parliamentary speeches and on social networks it becomes clear that the AfD wants to channel and use the protests,” Jena extremism researcher Matthias Quent told SPIEGEL. However, the party has so far not really wanted to succeed, as the Stuttgart example shows. The reasons for this lie primarily in the party itself.
A violent power struggle is currently raging in the AfD between the so-called moderate forces and the ultra-right from the nationalistic-nationalist wing – triggered by the expulsion of the Brandenburg right wing Andreas Kalbitz (read the SPIEGEL cover story here). “The party is currently not campaignable nationwide,” says Quent. The result: “On the spot, other right-wing groups are now taking over the business of trading”.
Rhetoric like the refugee crisis
The AfD recognized the chances of the crisis late for itself anyway. In view of the executive overweight, the party no longer got through with its issues at first, and there was no clear course in dealing with the pandemic. When the protests against the corona policy swelled, they finally sided with the action critics.
One of the first clear signals for this was a position paper by the Thuringian AfD parliamentary group on April 22nd. “The massive restrictions on fundamental rights and the deliberately accepted damage to economic life were not necessary,” it says in bold print on the paper. It warns of the “efforts in the left – green political spectrum, which the Corona crisis want to use it to transform our free civil society into a multicultural, eco-socialist utopia. “It is the AfD-typical rhetoric from the refugee crisis that is now being reduced to the Corona measures.
In Magdeburg and Erfurt the AfD then announced the first major protests of its own against the corona measures. In Bautzen an AfD event was entitled: “Defend the Basic Law”. Elsewhere the motto was: “Freedom instead of a surveillance state”. In Merseburg, the AfD local association propagates: “Stop corona madness!”
In many cases, however, the AfD activists mingle with the other protesters, in some cases they do not even identify themselves as AfD politicians – or they try to hijack the protests that others have announced and sell them as their own.
In Gera, for example, where Former Prime Minister Thomas Kemmerich of the FDP caused a scandal with his participation: there the AfD member of the Bundestag Stephan Brandner called for protests and also ran himself once. He spread photos of it on social networks, the impression that should be conveyed: This is an AfD event. No AfD representative had registered the event.
In Cottbus, Brandenburg, on the other hand, protests are organized and led by AfD officials. With the participation of the party-affiliated association “Zukunft Heimat”, members of the state parliament and other party structures are creating a mood against the corona restrictions.
The cooperation between the party and the association has been tried and tested: for months they recently organized anti-refugee assemblies in the city. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution describes “Zukunft Heimat” in an internal paper as a “right-wing extremist and Islamophobic association”, which both Andreas Kalbitz and Bjorn Höcke are “closely connected”.
Then as now, right-wing extremists also belong Hooligans and other supporters of the extreme right to mobilize the organizers. On May 13, the police were attacked by violent participants from this spectrum and had to use pepper spray to stop a demonstration by several hundred participants who are currently prohibited due to corona restrictions.
The AfD parliamentary group there, the home of ex-boss Kalbitz, who was kicked out by the federal executive board, has already convened three special corona sessions of the Brandenburg state parliament, staging itself as a parliamentary mouthpiece for the street protests.
However: even in Brandenburg, a heartland of the strong nationalist-nationalist wing, the AfD is only really noticeable in the corona protests where prominent party people are playing the subject. In contrast, the party has so far played a subordinate role in most regions of the country.
Nationwide, the AfD has so far not been able to benefit from the corona crisis. On the contrary: Almost all survey institutes have recorded losses for right-wing populists since the pandemic broke out.
It does not have to stay that way. Because if the restrictive measures are largely lifted at some point, the protests “in the course of the economic upheavals” could intensify, as extremist researcher Quent recently said in the SPIEGEL interview: “It is spoken of the greatest economic crisis since 1929. We know what happened then. The right is threatening to rise.”