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Jörg Meuthen; Alexander Gauland with Meuthen

Alexander Gauland chosen as co-leader of the AfD

Incumbent leader Jorg Meuthen won enough votes to keep his post, at the AfD party congress in Hanover, Germany, while Alexander Gauland returned to the co-leader post he had held since 2015.

Published: December 3, 2017, 7:49 pm

    Gauland was the party’s co-founder, is its federal spokesman and is the party leader for the state of Brandenburg.

    Meuthen praised the party for showing unity after two senior members quit in September in a surprise move against what they called the “rising populism” in the party.

    Meuthen had been re-elected with around 72 percent. The new leaders of the AFD signal a shift to the right of the party.

    “There are people in this country who don’t only say ‘We can do this’ but who actually manage to do something,” Meuthen told delegates before the vote.

    Faction leader Alice Weidel was once again elected as a member of the party executive committee.

    Weidel received 69 percent of the vote, and in her brief acceptance speech she noted that the AfD had achieved a “historic success” in the general election.

    The “chaos” which broke out afterwards with faile coalition talks, is indicative of the condition of the “old parties”, Weidel said, She added: “The Merkel twilight has long since arrived and it’s our achievement.”

    Gauland replaced Frauke Petry, one of the two senior members who quit to become an independent member of parliament. He ran for the post at the last minute after a “moderate” candidate Georg Pazderski, failed to win enough votes. Pazderski was Weidel’s choice, but was beaten by national-conservative Doris von Sayn-Wittgenstein.

    The AfD is now led by the right wing, Frauke Petry complained. The former AFD chairwoman Petry said the moderates in the party no longer had a figurehead. “The only leader they had left was Georg Pazderski, who was taken down.”

    But Gauland rejected the claim. “Frau von Sayn-Wittgenstein gave a speech that appealed to the heart of the party, and it did not matter where she stood or where she came from,” Gauland told television broadcaster Phoenix on the sidelines of the congress.

    “I think we’ve come up with a sensible solution,” Pazderski told Phoenix.

    The AfD had been polling at 3 percent nationally two years ago – when it was founded in 2013 as a vehicle to oppose euro zone bailouts. It now has seats in 14 of Germany’s 16 regional state parliaments.

    Current polls suggest that the AfD will win enough seats in next year’s regional elections in Bavaria as well as in the state of Hesse, to guarantee the party a presence in all of Germany’s state parliaments.

    Together with AFD parliamentary group leader in the Bundestag, Weidel, the AfD Bundestag delegate Beatrix von Storch was also elected to the Federal Executive.

    Von Storch received 55.2 percent of the vote. In her acceptance speech, she described the German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the “largest lawbreaker of German post-war history”. Germany’s problem was the “decadence of the elites”, and the AfD remains the last hope, she said.

    On Sunday, the party congress continued. The Hamburg politician Klaus-Günther Fohrmann was confirmed as Federal Treasurer. There were no decisions on major disputes, such as the party exclusion of the Thuringian district chief Björn Höcke.

    As members voted for new leaders, thousands of protesters waved placards reading “Hanover against Nazis” and “Stand up to racism”.

    According to police, some 6 500 AfD opponents demonstrated in the city center. Their rally with the motto “Our Hanover – colourful and in solidarity! – Protest against right-wing extremism and right-wing populism” resulted in clashes with the police, with several people injured on both sides.

    Riot police had to fire water cannons at demonstrators blocking a road to the congress and several were reportedly hurt in clashes with police on Saturday. A number of police officers and one protester were injured. Ten protesters were detained.

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