Germany’s Alternative Succumbs to Infighting as Popularity Fades

Leadership battles continue to mar the nationalist party while the abating refugee crisis has taken the wind out of its sails.

Frauke Petry speaks at a congress of the Alternative for Germany party in Aschaffenburg, January 27, 2014
Frauke Petry speaks at a congress of the Alternative for Germany party in Aschaffenburg, January 27, 2014 (Metropolico)

With five months to go before parliamentary elections, Germany’s nationalist party is imploding.

Frauke Petry, the charismatic leader of the Alternative für Deutschland, has said she will not lead the election campaign in the fall, in effect conceding defeat in a long-running power struggle.

Petry is officially one of two party leaders, but she sought to become its sole candidate for the chancellorship.

Even if the Alternative would have stood little chance of prevailing in September’s election anyway, a role as Spitzenkandidat could have given Petry more influence.

Her opponents argued for a team of leading contenders representing the various tendencies in the party.

Falling support

Support for the Alternative peaked at 15 percent in the middle of last year, when conservative Germans worried Chancellor Angela Merkel was mishandling the refugee crisis. It has since fallen to 10 percent as immigration has slowed.

If the party dips below 5 percent support, it wouldn’t even qualify for seats in parliament.

Infighting

The Alternative has been rocked by infighting from the start.

Petry herself took control of the party in 2015 by toppling one of its founders, the anti-euro Bernd Lucke.

Lucke envisioned the party as a libertarian alternative to the mainstream right, but it attracted mostly nationalists. Petry capitalized on this by associating with anti-Islamization movements Lucke had shunned.

In recent months, Petry had began to argue for moderation, proposing to ditch her rivals’ policy of “fundamental opposition” to other parties.

She also said the Alternative should unambiguously disavow all “racist, antisemitic and nationalist ideologies” — which was apparently too big of an ask.

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