1. Inhalt
  2. Navigation
  3. Weitere Inhalte
  4. Metanavigation
  5. Suche
  6. Choose from 30 Languages

German Election

AfD's unlikely duo: Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel

The disenchanted Christian Democrat and the business-savvy political novice. How Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel, respectively, became the far-right nationalist candidates in Germany's election.

Watch video 01:46

On a high - Rise of populism in Germany

It was an unlikely decision. And, with only 67.7 percent of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) voting in favor of the party's 2017 federal candidates, the choice of Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel is anything but convincing.

Read more: 10 things you need to know about the AfD

In the party's newly passed manifesto, the AfD has dire news for Germany's democracy: A "secret sovereign ... has cultivated itself in the existing political parties."

It is through the very ranks of Germany's political establishment, however, that the 76-year-old Gauland learned the trade that he his now putting to use with the AfD.

Watch video 01:56

AfD names top duo for general election

Anti-refugee sentiment

Born in the eastern city of Chemnitz in 1941, Gauland would flee the German Democratic Republic at the age of 18 to study law and political science at the Philipps university in Marburg. However, as large numbers of displaced people sought asylum in Germany in 2015 and 2016, Gauland was quick to say that his own experience had not been that of a refugee.

"That is something else: I'm German," Gauland said. "And I went from Germany to Germany. It is quite different when someone comes from Eritrea or Sudan. He has no right to the support of a foreigner. "

Read more: AfD's rightward tilt may prove risky

It was during his studies in Marburg that Gauland became best acquainted with the intricacies of the German political system, as shown in his bachelor thesis on "the principle of legitimacy in state practice since the Vienna Congress."

Gauland knows Germany's constitution. He knows when to speak out. But also, more importantly for the far-right AfD, he knows where to toe the constitutional line.

Alexander Gauland

Alexander Gauland in November 1988 whilst working as state secretary at Hessen State Chancellery

Before AfD party leader Frauke Petry was even born, Gauland had already begun his career as a member of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), working at the parliament press office in Bonn, then the capital of West Germany. By 1975, he had moved to the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, to work as a press officer at Germany's general consulate. For over 30 years, he has worn a tweed green jacket, the kind most commonly associated with the aristocrats and landowners of Britain's past.

Read more: AfD's Frauke Petry will not stand as lead candidate in 2017 German elections

Disillusioned in CDU

Upon returning to Germany, Gauland became the right-hand man of the CDU's Walter Wallmann, the mayor of Frankfurt at the time. Standing by Wallmann as he served both as Germany's environment minister and later the state premier of Hesse, Gauland became widely regarded as one of the trusted liberal minds of the CDU.

In 1991, after the coalition of the CDU and Free Democrats (FDP) gave way to a Social Democrats-Greens government in Hesse's state election, Gauland began his second career as a publicist and became editor of the cross-regional daily Märkische Allgemeine in Potsdam, where he stayed until 2005.

It was arguably his published books on conservatism, in which his tone became increasingly gloomy and pessimistic, that are most emblematic of his shift to the right and his eventual move to the AfD. In 1989, Gauland further displayed his shift to the right with an essay for the "Frankfurter Rundschau" titled "What Is Conservative."

"It is necessary to mitigate cultural shocks and make habituation processes possible by means of conservative abatements for modernization," Gauland wrote. "This is the task of a party with conservative roots."

'German dominant culture'?

In his best-known book, 2002's "Anleitung zum Konservativsein" (Instruction on Being Conservative), Gauland bemoaned what he considered the diminished roles of concepts such as "Heimat" (homeland) and "deutsche Leitkultur" (German dominant culture) in political discourse. Railing against the "fun society," he also demanded a "deceleration" of technical progress. But it would take another decade before Gauland jumped ship from Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU and joined the AfD.

Together with the publicist and journalist Konrad Adam and economist Bernd Lucke, Gauland founded the euroskeptic Wahlalternative 2013 (Election Alternative 2013), which quickly became the AfD.

By February 2014, Gauland was elected regional chairman of AfD Brandenburg and led the party into the state parliament with 12.2 percent of the vote just seven months later. Now, Gauland has his sights set on surpassing the 5 percent vote threshold for the AfD to enter Germany's federal parliament in Berlin.

But national support for the AfD has suffered immensely in  recent months, with opinion polls falling from a high of 16 percent last September to just 9 percent amid party infighting. Gauland himself has become a particularly divisive figure for his public outbursts.

During last year's Euro 2016 football tournament, the AfD was forced to apologize after Gauland said Germans valued national player Jerome Boateng - whose father is from Ghana - as a sportsman but "would not want to live next door to someone like him."

Read more: Jerome Boateng represents multicultural Germany and should be his country's new captain

Earlier this year, Gauland called for a ban on Muslims, and in 2016 he said that "not everyone who holds a German passport is German."

Jerome Boateng

Gauland's comments regarding German national footballer Jerome Boateng sparked the hashtag #BoatengIsMyNeighbour

AfD's dark horse 

Alice Weidel's history is much less documented than her running mate's. Faced with Gauland's outlandish statements, her mission is seemingly to represent the moderate wing of the AfD, creating the image of a party with broader appeal.

At first glance, the 38-year-old Weidel could be a member of Germany's liberal FDP. She is a studied economist, investment banker and startup entrepreneur with experience in China. Even her private life is liberal compared with the image of the AfD. Weidel lives with her long-term female partner and their child. In contrast, the AfD, according to its manifesto, seeks to motivate Germans to bring more children into the world to preserve the country's "own constitutive people" - a description that bears worrying similarities to the notion of the "Mutterkreuz" (Mother's Cross) awarded to women during the Third Reich for producing offspring with "German blood."

Though Weidel might come off as a liberal in the far-right AfD, that didn't stop her from declaring on Sunday that "we are the only party for Germany!" The most applause came, however, when she addressed the results of Turkey's recent controversial referendum, telling supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Germany to "go back to Turkey!"

Read more: Turkey election board rejects referendum annulment appeals

Watch video 00:37

Germany's AfD may expel member for Holocaust remarks

In the coming weeks, a contentious issue between Gauland and Weidel could be how to handle the AfD member Björn Höcke. In his first interview since being elected as AfD candidate on Sunday, Gauland told German broadcaster ZDF that Höcke "belongs to the party as much as Frauke Petry." Weidel, however, has stood by Petry's call to exclude Höcke from the party after the Thuringia AfD leader described Berlin's Holocaust memorial in January as a "monument of shame."

Read more: 'Höcke's apology is part of a strategy,' expert says

With just five months left to pull the party back together in the hope of boosting support, unity is lacking - not least between the unlikely duo of newly elected top candidates. It seems right now that the only thing uniting them is the AfD's campaign posters.

Watch video 01:40

Support for AfD sinks

DW recommends

Audios and videos on the topic