The various political parties are in the process of deciding on their EU parliamentary candidates and where they are placed on the candidate list.
Former MEP and Chancellor Candidate Martin Schulz (SDP) has announced that he won’t be standing for the EU election. I don’t think that he has much support after the debacle of a Bundestag election and coalition negotiations he presided over.
Although the AfD are looking for around 40 candidates in total for a nationwide list, around 13 have been chosen so far. The tone of their campaign will be against ever-closer union and eastwards expansion. Political observers estimate the AfD taking 13 to 18 seats.
The party’s selection process involves, among other things: providing a police report, membership status and a seven minute presentation to the delegates about their candidature. Most of the presentations are on YouTube.
Counter to the notion that the AfD is ‘racist’, one of the unsuccessful candidates for the list place 13 was Achille Demagbo, a Benin-born party member. In his presentation, he stated that he was “proud to be an African”, but also that “Germany shouldn’t be flooded with too many Africans, because there are simply too many of them”.
A detailed inspection of the first two on the candidate list gives an insight into the breadth and depth of the party.
It came as no surprise that their current MEP Prof Dr Jörg Meuthen was selected unopposed as number one candidate. He inherited the post from Beatrix von Storch, who is good friends with Nigel Farage, when she moved into the Bundestag. As co-leader and the party’s national spokesman he is a well-known and proven performer on the public stage. Incidentally, the co-leadership with Alexander Gauland was a measure designed to unite rival factions within the party; with his political positioning towards the more classical liberal / libertarian side of the party. His professorship was in political economy and finance. As MEP, in the EFDD grouping with UKIP, he has made contacts with other nations and acts as a link man to the populist movements in Austria, Hungary and Italy. His goal is to unite the populists across Europe. He is a very measured speaker as can be seen in this video (with English subtitles) An English language article from the left-wing Deutsche Welle about his selection is here.
Their number two candidate, and therefore almost certain to be elected, is Guido Reil, who won with 51% of the votes against three other candidates. In some respects, he is perhaps more interesting than Jörg Meuthen and someone I have watched closely over the past couple of years since stumbling across a talk show appearance of his on YouTube. He may be lesser-known outside Germany, but still managed to attract the attention of the New York Times earlier this year.
A miner from the industrial Ruhr area, he came to national attention – on talk shows and in the press – when he left the SPD (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands – Germany’s Labour party) after 26 years, in 2016. He was also a union official; before his unceremonious removal due to alleged ‘racism’. He is well-known for his charitable activities: union organized transport for retirees and a Kältebus (cold bus) distributing food, warm clothing and sleeping bags to the homeless. He uses the opportunity to canvass their opinions and use that information to help formulate social policy for the party. He publicizes these activities in videos on his YouTube channel.
Perhaps his most famous video, titled ‘Guido Reil im Wunderland’ (Guido Reil in Wonderland), is a parody about migrants with multiple wives, based on a TV news report on the same subject. In it he is shown with his two ‘wives’ and maintains that it is so time-consuming that he no longer has time to work and must therefore live off state benefits. He is a charismatic public speaker, with a jocular style, and has some 300 speeches across Germany behind him since he joined the AfD in 2016. He praises the egalitarian AfD for his elevation to the national committee in December 2017; something which wouldn’t have happened to him within the elitist SPD. Hence the quote in the NYT article: “What do a miner, a princess and a professor have in common? They are all in the AfD.” The princess and professor referred to being von Storch and Weidel, respectively.
German National politics
As I wrote last time, the AfD candidate for Vice President in the Bundestag, Albrecht Glaser, was rejected by the legacy parties during the formation of the parliament. Since then a new candidate has been selected. She is Mariana Harder-Kühnel, a jurist and regarded as an AfD centrist. The party is using this ‘clean’ nominee as a test case, to see if there is any willingness at all for the other parties to work with them. If not, then they will simply declare the legacy parties undemocratic.
As has been widely reported, a scandal has erupted around illegal donations from a Swiss pharmaceutical company made to Alice Weidel’s constituency during the 2017 election campaign. The donations in total exceeded the €50,000 automatic notification, but were made in several smaller sums. Although the money has been returned to the donor, there have been calls for her resignation. Politically, their enemies need to try and take her out, because she is so effective against them. It remains to be seen whether they can inflict any real damage, as none has been inflicted so far. There is a legal investigation underway by the state prosecutors in Baden-Württemberg to determine if there is any wrongdoing, so there won’t be any outcome until that is over.
Today, she spoke feistily about it in the Bundestag pointing to other parties receiving massive donations from large corporations and other sources. The CDU had a massive scandal in the past, with donations from a German with dual Canadian citizenship,; which brought Angela Merkel into power. In that case, it was almost literally cash being handed over in brown paper bags and filtered through secret accounts.