The concern of party representatives in the West, who would like to take a somewhat less radical path with the party, is particularly great at this prospect. With Höcke at the top, the AfD in the west could pack up, they say. In the east there are perhaps many admirers who indulge in the “Höcke cult”, in the west the AfD is making itself unelectable with it.
Of the 60 million voters in Germany, around 50 million live in the West. The AfD is already alienating many of these voters with its sometimes erratic but increasingly radical course, as the recent state elections have shown. In Saarland, the party only just managed to get over the five percent hurdle, in Schleswig-Holstein it was knocked out of the first state parliament with 4.4 percent. The dream of a right-wing force that is successful throughout Germany – with Höcke on the board or even as chairman, he would probably have finally died.
Höcke is also playing with fire
But even for Höcke, a candidacy is playing with fire, which is why it remains uncertain. The support for him among party representatives in the East is huge, the Thuringian as well as the Saxon state association are unified as Höcke supporters.
But at the federal party conference, 600 delegates vote, who are appointed according to the number of members in the state associations. And the largest AfD associations are not in the east – with North Rhine-Westphalia (around 5,100 members), Bavaria (4,300) and Baden-Württemberg (3,800) western associations are at the top. With around 2,200 members, Saxony is the first federal state in eastern Germany to come in sixth.
Höcke also has many friends and fans in the west, and there are “wing” supporters in all state associations. Under these conditions, however, victory would by no means fly his way. According to the party, if Höcke actually wants to run for the presidency, he will have to talk to leading figures in the West, who are far from all friendly to him. That’s why Höcke’s visit to Berlin in particular put the AfD into a frenzy.
Prompt with strategy
Many a Höcke critic in the West seems to really want his candidacy: Rüdiger Lucassen, member of the Bundestag and former head of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia – actually no friend of Höcke – demanded on Tuesday in the ZDF morning magazine that he should finally “talk smack”. He urged him to run for the board. Just criticizing from Thuringia and “moving on the meta level” is not enough.
Doesn’t he run the risk of expanding Höcke’s influence and turning the AfD even further to the right? He doesn’t think so, said Lucassen. If Höcke is successful in a candidacy, “then he has to change if he wants to bring the entire party forward”. Lucassen, however, is considered a member of parliament with ambitions for the presidency. Many in the party speculate that his goal may also be to demystify and damage Höcke through a public voting debacle.