The far-right Alternative for Germany, battling stagnant poll results and suspicions of illegal funding, is now torn by a deepening rift between its party leadership and its most radical wing.
The turbulence comes as falling migrant arrivals have deprived the ultra-nationalist protest party of its main rallying cause, while the ascendant Greens have replaced them as the strongest opposition force.
The six-year-old AfD, which has seen splits and leadership coups before, is now torn between backers and foes of hardliner Bjoern Hoecke, months ahead of crucial state polls in its heartland in the ex-communist east.
Hoecke, 47, is party chief in eastern Thuringia state and leads the most extreme party faction, “The Wing”, which is officially under surveillance by the domestic intelligence service.
The former history teacher once called Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial a “monument of shame” and has marched arm-in-arm with the anti-Islam street movement Pegida in a rally joined by neo-Nazis in the city of Chemnitz.
Last weekend at a meeting of his grouping, Hoecke dramatically marched into the hall flanked by flag-waving supporters and went on to sharply attack the party’s national leadership.
He vowed that after the autumn elections in Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia states that he would devote himself “with great passion” to the election of a new national party leadership.
– ‘Personality cult’ –
Days later, 100 AfD politicians in a letter attacked Hoecke’s “excessive personality cult” and declared that “the AfD is not the Bjoern Hoecke party”.
Criticism also came from AfD co-chiefs Joerg Meuthen and Alexander Gauland, who fear The Wing’s hard-right rhetoric is scaring off voters who see themselves as conservative patriots worried about immigration.
Gauland said he found both Hoecke’s performance “inappropriate” and argued that if the party does not act “professionally,” it will never win over the “middle-class majority we need to change this country”.
Similar battles have flared in several German regions, including Bavaria where an internal party panel declared The Wing to be in a “competitive relationship” with the AfD.
The internal rift is the latest for the AfD, which was founded as a eurosceptic party in 2013, opposing bailouts for indebted Greece and other countries.
After a first leadership coup, it increasingly railed against immigration, multiculturalism and Islam, especially after the 2015 mass influx of migrants and refugees to Germany.
– ‘Tearing itself apart’ –
The AfD is especially strong in Germany’s east which, almost 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, lags the west in jobs and prosperity and has been a hotspot for xenophobia, racist hate crimes and support for far-right groups.
“Merkel must go” has been a common chant at AfD and Pegida rallies where mostly white, middle-aged men have vented their fury at what they see as a political and media elite that has betrayed them.
As public fears about immigration have abated somewhat, the AfD has increasingly campaigned on other issues — against wind farms, opposing driving bans on diesel cars, and denying man-made climate change, a position even the AfD’s youth wing rejects.
In May’s European Parliament elections, the AfD scored 10.9 percent, less than it had hoped for.
It is polling strongly in parts of the east but faces fresh woes after a paperwork error ahead of the Saxony state election that could mean many AfD candidates won’t get assembly seats even if elected.
Amid the ideological war inside the party, the eastern newspaper Magdeburger Volksstimme wrote that “the AfD is once more tearing itself apart”.
Gauland, 78, a defector from Merkel’s CDU party, said the AfD is going through a “puberty crisis” which was hindering its efforts to poach disaffected conservative voters.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily judged that “Gauland’s dream of a force that would bring together conservatives and radicals is increasingly proving to be a naive illusion”.
OAN’s Kremlin journalist proves the ‘merger between Russian state-sponsored propaganda and American conservative media’ is complete: Former FBI special agent
Its headlines look like they're written to please an audience of one.
"Political Strategist: President Trump’s reelection looks good in state-by-state analysis of chances."
"Pres. Trump touts strong approval rating as economy remains solid."
"GOP businesswoman Scherie Murray announces campaign for AOC’s seat."
It's been called an "obscure" pay-cable TV station, but One America News Network, which at time feels more like Fox News than Fox News, is President Donald Trump's new favorite news channel. It worked hard to get there, and as a 2017 Washington Post article noted its "taking ‘pro-Trump’ to new heights."
Mike Pence to headline ‘intimate’ $35,000 per couple fundraiser at gay-owned private club
Location reportedly revealed by chef during hearing on felony assault and domestic violence charges
Vice President Mike Pence will headline a $35,000-per-couple fundraiser at a private club owned by two gay men in Aspen, Colorado Monday evening.
The invitation, sent by Bob Jenkins, vice chair of Pitkin County Republicans, calls it "an intimate high dollar reception," and says, "we would like you to participate if possible. Additionally, please quietly spread the word," according to The Aspen Times.
Man who believed ‘the Bible is for white people’ gets life in prison after setting black man on fire in gruesome murder
A white man from Tennessee has been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of murdering a black man by setting him on fire while he slept.
The Daily News Journal reports that 53-year-old John Carothers has pleaded guilty to murdering Robert Miller, a housemate who lived with him at the Frazier Young Supportive Living, which is a home for people with intellectual disabilities.
According to prosecutors, Carothers in March 2018 doused Miller in lighter fluid while he was asleep in his bed and then lit him on fire. Miller would subsquently die from burn-related injuries at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.