Newly Elected Leaders of Germany’s Populist AfD Face Uphill Battle in Polls

COLOGNE, GERMANY - APRIL 23: The members of the national directorate of the AfD party Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland on stage at a press conference after being elected as the leading duo for the general elections during the federal congress of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) political …
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images

Newly elected leaders of the anti-mass migration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel face a slump in the polls and a divided party in the wake of the departure of former leader Frauke Petry.

The latest polling shows the AfD scoring between eight and 10 per cent of the German vote – well below their record high of 16 per cent in September of last year. The combination of the departure of popular former leader Ms. Petry and party infighting surrounding populist firebrand Björn Höcke has also left the party more divided than before.

Last Saturday in Cologne, the AfD membership elected two new leaders to replace outgoing Petry to lead the party into the upcoming federal elections in September. The party chose political veteran and AfD co-founder Alexander Gauland and the relatively unknown economist, Alice Weidel.

Mr. Gauland has been a big name in the AfD since it was formed in 2012 having been a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) which, before 2015, was regarded as the primary conservative party in the country. Gauland, more conservative than most in the CDU, once belonged to the Berlin Circle group, a collection of CDU members with traditional conservative beliefs.

The 76-year-old has also been broadly supportive of Thuringia AfD chief Björn Höcke who stirred controversy earlier this year when he called for an end to the culture of guilt regarding the country’s Nazi past. Höcke argued that Germany should “build up a positive relationship with our history”.

Whilst many in the AfD have called for Höcke to be kicked out of the party, Gauland told broadcaster ZDF Monday, “Björn Höcke is as much a part of the party as Frauke Petry.”

Gauland has also praised the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and slammed what he called the “hysterical” reaction from German media in November.

Gauland’s co-leader Ms. Weidel is unknown in comparison. The 38-year-old openly gay economist represents the free-market side of the party and has previously worked for large financial firms like Goldman Sachs, Allianz Global Investors, and the Bank of China.

Whilst much of the focus on the AfD is related to their anti-mas migration and anti-Islamisation policies, Ms. Weidel has been consistently critical of the German government’s fiscal and economic policy.

With its two new leaders, the party hopes to unite its populist wing, through Gauland, and its economically libertarian base, through Weidel, and seek large gains this September.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at 


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