Germany’s Far Right: Who is AfD’s Frontrunner Alice Weidel?

On September 24th, the parliamentary elections will maybe elevate the far right party “Alternative für Deutschland” (AfD) into the German parliament. The party fights immigrants and its members stick out with homophobic and racist remarks over and over again. Now their candidate for chancellor, Alice Weidel, seems to contradict this profile. What drives her?

Alice Weidel
Alice Weidel on nationwide party conference 2017 in Cologne (Foto: Olaf Kosinsky / kosinsky.eu)

Alice Weidel speaks slowly. It is very comfortable to listen, as she speaks calmly and pointedly. When she hits a punchline, she would raise her left eyebrow and grin with her lips drawn back. She grins towards the first rows like a baroness towards her servants. But this willingly displayed arrogance is not for her audience, who sit in front of her at a rally in Rheinfelden in June. They’re basically all party members or friends of its ideas. Her arrogance goes out to the media, who would see the video material of her speech on youtube. The very media, that supposedly draws a false image of her party, the AfD (“alternative for Germany”), day in, day out. The image of a racist, and minority-hating Nazi party. Therefore, she would, of course, stand in front of the mirror every day, to think about “against which minorities I want to unscrupulously agitate again today”, she said ironically.

Alice Weidel is 38 years old, highly educated, a graduate management-consultant, and a multiple startup-founder. Openly lesbian, Swiss partner with an immigrant background, child. This formerly little-known woman has been elected candidate for chancellor for the upcoming parliamentary elections (Bundestagswahl) on September 24th, after Frauke Petry, who The New Yorker once called “The New Star Of Germany’s Far Right“, quoting her enemies calling her “Adolfina”, resigned candidacy following internal power plays.

Frauke Petry speaking in Munich, 2016 (Foto: Michael Lucan)

And this nomination should actually be a contradiction. For the party itself, a party that fights migration like no other subject in their program, that denies the idea of granting equal rights to homosexuals, whiches members are sticking out again and again for racist, homophobic, and sexist statements, that have been partly sentenced for incitement of the people. But above all: Shouldn’t it be a contradiction for Weidel herself? For the much-travelled, who lived in Hong Kong to do research for her national economics PhD. Who once voted for the green and the liberal party (Grüne, FDP), as she told journalist Malte Henk. Who, as Henk writes, was sent to the AfD by her partner, “as a new pastime”. She joins the party in 2013, two years later she is elected as a member of the federal executive board. After that, some defeats, first in 2015, when she ran for the Landtag (German state parliament) in Baden Württemberg. She also lost state chairmanship to a colleague in 2016. Now, a year after, candidacy for chancellor. All hate Frauke.

This is not the path of a woman, who joins a party for “pastime”, and then waits, how things develop. You don’t make it to the top like that. Alice Weidel is someone who fights, overcomes defeats, works harder, wants to be front row.

AfD Wahlplakat Bundestagswahl 2017
Campaigning poster for September’s election: “New Germans? We make our own.” For the AfD, being German is a matter of descent.

And she is exactly there now. And still, she has to stand the remarks of fellow AfD-frontrunner, Alexander Gauland, who – after being asked about Weidel’s family at a press conference – “would define the word family differently“. And Alice Weidel said: not much. Not in response to Gauland, nor to other AfD-politicians, who often expressed their low opinion about homosexuality. The party’s stance on equality, however, does not contradict her own attitude towards the matter, as she made clear on several occasions.

Can’t she make a clear point about it, because then she would have to face the fact, that she sacrificed some of her principles to a promising career in a party, that actually opposes her way of living? Or does Weidel’s candidacy, in fact, mean, that we actually face a transforming party, open and more tolerant? In other words, is the AfD-racist soon not more than an unfortunate, but individual case in a tempered party, that won’t tolerate agitation against minorities anymore? Weidel, however, has indeed spoken out against such demagogues. She demanded the expulsion of Thuringian functionary Björn Höcke, who argued in a speech, that the reproduction behaviour of Africans is biologically set to spread out, in order to capture the image of the ever lusty sub-Saharan barbarian. She made similar remarks on the Berlin delegate Kay Nerstheimer, who referred to homosexuals as a “mistake”, a “genetic defect”, and “unnatural”.

Björn Bernd Höcke
Bernd Höcke in the Thuringian Parliament (Foto: Olaf Kosinsky)

Yes, Alice Weidel is far away from demagoguery and dumb agitation. The AfD sells her, as she does herself, as a moderate conservative and a liberal economist. She is supposed to be the middle-class face of a party, that feels to be treated unfairly by the media and other parties, who call it radically right wing and homophobic. But are these efforts to publicly condemn too radical statements not only a cover up?

Weidel as well uses terms like “so called refugees”, when she talks about the sinking boats in the Mediterranean, or talks of “stone age sharia” when she is generally referring to Islam. Every now and then she uses the German word “Asylant”, which today has a negative connotation since it was used as a swear word in the 90s. She demands a cap for asylum seekers and a 100 percent deportation quota. In short: Of course, Weidel backs the core demands of her party. And they didn’t change at all, no matter if all the Höcke’s  and Nerstheimer’s have been condemned: The program states, that “the presence of over 5 million Muslims” is dangerous for Germany. Furthermore, every immigrant should assimilate. That means a full adaption while renouncing every aspect of one’s own culture. Immigration should be the exception anyway because only people with German parents can actually be German. Also, only relationships between men and women are normal. Nothing of the above is changed by the fact Weidel was elected frontrunner, on the contrary: as a member and temporary chairwoman of the federal program commission, she is decisively responsible for the phrasing of the contents.

Alice Weidel may have been the new face of the AfD last year. This unknown woman, suddenly on stage, speaking so differently in comparison to her fellow party members. Some might even have been hoping to deal with a more cautious far right party from now on, while, in fact, her moderate style changes nothing about the real face of the AfD. On the other hand, she is not the catchpenny, quota-lesbian, who was installed to lead people to believe in a not existing tolerance for alternative life designs. Alice Weidel is not a woman to be lead or guided. A woman like her, who worked for Goldman Sachs, who was a consultant for Rocket Internet, and a multiple startup founder, is not a political pawn, but a career woman from the corporate sector: capable, determined, and hungry for power. Which isn’t necessarily a difference to other politicians. But other than Weidel, most politicians join a party for their beliefs and principles. Alice Weidel, who was initially sent to an AfD gathering by her partner, apparently decided to let go of these principles that affect her personally, in order to rise.

She is not a demagogue. Which makes her dangerous for the big people’s parties and electable for bigger parts of the population. Alice Weidel is a far right wolve in a civic-conservative sheep’s clothing. Or maybe she indeed represents the moderate part of her party. Doesn’t matter in the end, because with her, a pack might move into the German parliament, that doesn’t even bother to hide in sheep’s clothing.

 

 

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