Jörg Meuthen, the longtime co-chairman and federal spokesman for the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), became the third parliamentarian of note to abandon the party in the last two months when he resigned from his positions and announced his departure from the party on Friday.
While confirming his resignation to German broadcasters, Meuthen, who for many years had represented the economically liberal, soft Eurosceptic faction of the AfD, said that his decision was prompted by a defeat in an intraparty power struggle with the Rightist, national-populist faction of the party, the Hamburg-based newspaper Die Zeit reports.
In his comments, Meuthen asserted that the party’s Rightist faction—led by co-chairman Tino Chrupalla and deputy party leader Alice Weidel—has increasingly determined the general direction and orientation of the party, claiming: “The party’s heart is beating very far to the right today, and permanently at an elevated rate.” He also acknowledged that as chairman he failed to set an alternative course for the party.
“Not to forget Chrupalla, Weidel, Gauland, Höcke, Brandner, they will be really happy that [I am] finally gone,” Meuthen told the broadcasters.
Meuthen, who says he would like to keep his job as a lawmaker in the European Parliament, also claimed that parts of the AfD “are not based on the free democratic basic order,” adding that he sees “clear totalitarian echoes.” The 60-year-old MEP also criticized the party’s prevailing position on COVID-19 and claimed that, at best, the future of the AfD lies as a regional party in the eastern federal states.
For its part, the AfD has firmly rejected its former chairman’s claim that a rightward shift has taken place in the party. MP Joana Cotar—previously regarded as Meuthen’s favorite pick for the party’s top candidates—told the newspaper Deutschlandfunk that there is no shift to the right taking place within the party.
Following Meuthen’s resignation announcement, the AfD’s federal board took note of the decision “with regret,” writing in an official press statement: “We would like to thank Jörg Meuthen for the good cooperation over the past few years and for the further development of the AfD as the only opposition party in Germany. We wish him all the best for his future.”
Björn Höcke, a lawmaker in the Thuringian state parliament who’s regarded as the leader of the Rightist, national-populist faction of the party, took to social media on Friday to extend his best wishes to Meuthen, saying that he respected his decision “and wished him the personal and professional satisfaction that he could not find in the party.”
Others, like the former CDU MP Erika Steinback—who presently chairs the AfD-affiliated Desiderius Erasmus Foundation—slammed the manner in which Meuthen departed, accusing him of a “deliberately destructive exit” which served as a slap in the face to those who’ve stood by him in the past. In the same social media post, Steinbach announced that Meuthen’s resignation had prompted her to join the AfD.
After catching word of Meuthen’s announcement, Junge Alternative (JA), the de-facto youth wing of the party, called on him to relinquish his seat as a member of the European Parliament.
“The AfD has much to thank Prof. Jörg Meuthen for. Especially in his first four years as party chairman, he tried to be integrative and to unite the different tendencies of the party. Many of our party’s successes are linked to his name,” wrote Carlo Clemens, the national chairman of the Junge Alternative (JA).
“We wish Prof. Dr. Jörg Meuthen and his family all the best for the future. At the same time, we expect him to return the mandate in the EU Parliament that he won thanks to the AfD to the party.”
Meuthen’s resignation comes after AfD MPs—or rather, now former AfD MPs—Uwe Witt and Johannes Huber announced their departures from the party at the end of last year. Shortly after submitting his formal resignation, Witt announced that he would be sitting in parliament as a member of the Center Party (Zentrumspartei), as The European Conservative has previously reported.