Alternative for Germany (AfD) defectors Frauke Petry and her husband Marcus Pretzell fed speculation on Wednesday that they might form a group to rival a party they now describe as overly “radicalized.”
But Alice Weidel, who was elected co-leader of the party caucus on Tuesday evening, retorted that an AfD rival would be “doomed to failure.”
Petry, 42, walked out on Weidel and two other AfD leaders, Alexander Gauland and Jörg Meuthen, at a post-election press conference in Berlin on Monday. She said that the party needed to take a more moderate and realistic approach, saying it was currently shaping up to be an ineffective “fundamental opposition.”
Exiting the AfD
Both Petry and Pretzell on Tuesday said they would each quit various posts held as members of the 4-year-old populist party, albeit without specifying when.
Petry quit as AfD opposition leader in Saxony’s assembly, but kept the new federal seat she won outright in Sunday’s Bundestag election in Saxony’s Osterz hill region, just south of Dresden.
On Wednesday, the Bundestag’s website listed Petry as an independent (fraktionslos in German) member of parliament.
Directly-elected politicians in Germany are at liberty to change party affiliation without giving up their seats.
Pretzell, for his part, said he would drop his post as AfD opposition faction leader in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Earlier on Wednesday, Pretzell told told public broadcaster ZDF that the public should be prepared for a surprise: “We’re being spoken to by many people outside and also inside the AfD.”
He also hinted at a potential partnership with the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), which suffered losses to the AfD in Sunday’s election and faces a political shake up.
The CSU’s historical confinement to Bavaria (the CDU does not compete in Bavaria, the CSU only competes in Bavaria) left it “federally politically castrated,” Pretzell said.
“We are conducting a number of talks at the moment,” Pretzell added, adding that it could take several weeks before an outcome emerged.
Since Sunday’s election, CSU chairman and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer has faced heavy internal criticism over his party’s 10-percent slump in support.
Others threaten to follow
Thomas Hartung, a senior AfD official in Saxony, announced on Wednesday that he would be quitting his role as deputy chairman in the state.
Hartung said he saw two “irreconcilable streams in the AfD” and what he called a “witch hunt against independent thinkers.” However, he also said that he would “naturally” remain a member of the party despite quitting his higher office.
The AfD in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania also saw a shift this week, when four of its 18 parliamentarians formed a rival faction on Monday.
The German news agency dpa quoted Petry on Wednesday as saying a web address “dieblauen.de” (translating as “the Blues” in German) was registered in her name. However, Petry told dpa that the term “Blues” was an idea, not necessarily a party name, and that she would comment further on this in due course.
“I don’t want to say any more about that at this time,” dpa quoted Petry as saying.
The domain name is registered in Petry’s name, according to Denic, which manages Germany’s .de domain. Denic records say that the last change to the domain’s status was made this July.
Prior to the Petry and Pretzell AfD exits, political analysts had already speculated that the far-right party — the first to enter the Bundestag in six decades — would disintegrate.
On election eve, Forsa polling institute chief Manfred Güllner predicted: “The AfD will dismantle itself.”
Sectarian groups on the far right had always done so, he told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper last Saturday.
Güllner said the AfD, now present in opposition in 13 of Germany’s regional assemblies, had shown itself not to be interested in “proper parliamentary work” from day to day, but rather in disputes on political direction.
AfD ‘shedding its skin’
After Petry’s press conference exit on Monday, Dresden political scientist Professor Hans Vorländer told public Deutschlandfunk radio that if Petry recruited 30 “loyal supporters” in the Bundestag she could forge her own group.
Bundestag organizational rules require a minimum of 30 parliamentarians for formal recognition as a parliamentary faction.
Before Sunday’s election, the AfD, which he described as a “collecting basin of the disgruntled” had camouflaged its inner turmoil, Vorländer said, but its bickering had now broken out into the open.
“That’s a development that has been evident for a long time,” he added. “The AfD is shedding its skin.”