The populist, nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) wrapped up its two-day party conference in the eastern city of Dresden on Sunday,
The members voted on the party's manifesto ahead of national elections scheduled for September where its chosen campaign slogan is: "Germany. But normal."
As during Saturday's session, organizers and the 570 delegates who attend in person disregarded coronavirus pandemic guidelines.
The AfD has yet to decide who will run for chancellor. With several party leaders eyeing the nomination, the delegates voted to delay the final decision past the end of the weekend summit. The party did decide, however, that it would field two candidates as it did at previous elections in 2017. While German parties usually chose their leaders via a delegates' vote, the AfD decided that the question would be settled with a membership survey.
In a separate vote, the attendees endorsed Germany's leaving the European Union as part of their manifesto. Germany's exit was "necessary," according to the initiative, but members also called for creating a "new European community of economies and interests."
What did party heads say?
Co-leader Tino Chrupalla, who is seen as a top contender for chancellor candidate, urged delegates to put the infighting of recent months behind them and go into the elections united. He said the lesson from recent heavy losses of support in state elections was that his party needed a "clear profile, unity, courage and solidarity."
The other co-leader, Jörg Meuthen, used his speech to attack rival parties. He said that Germany had been ruled for 16 years by a chancellor and parties that had destroyed "normality" in Germany bit by bit.
The Greens and Left came in for a particular dose of vitriol, with Meuthen calling them "socialist opposition parties" for whom "this destruction did not go far and fast enough." He also slammed the Greens for their "orgies of bans and quotas" during the pandemic.
Reporting from the scene, DW's Rosalia Romaniec said Meuthen's speech was greeted with applause — but the hard-liner Chrupalla received a standing ovation.
DW's Simon Young, who is also in Dresden, said debate on concrete issues could be overshadowed by the current rift in the party between extreme far-right elements and more conservative ones.
He said, however, that "normality" for the party meant things such as a return to compulsory military service and "banning minarets."
In this, party leaders can look to the neighboring Switzerland, where minarets have been banned following a 2009 referendum.
In a tweet, Young also cited an AfD delegate as saying that "if Germany is to live, the EU must die," but noted that the party seemed to be divided about the European Union.
What is the AfD's stance on the pandemic?
At the conference, the party also approved a resolution on the management of the coronavirus pandemic. In it, it called for an end to lockdowns and said that protection against infection should be left up to the "responsible citizens."
The resolution also accused Germany's ruling parties of creating a "politics of fear" while rejecting even indirect pressure for people to be vaccinated or tested.
Björn Höcke, the party leader in the state of Thuringia, even suggested that the pandemic had been created through tests. "Testing and the amount of testing has led to us having a pandemic in the first place," he said. "Without testing, it would be nothing more than an infection."
Höcke belongs to a branch of the party that is under surveillance by the authorities as a possible extremist movement. At a conference in the western town of Kalkar in November, he came under verbal attack from Meuthen, who is seen as holding more moderate views.
What does AfD hope for?
The AfD is pinning great hopes on elections on June 6 in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, where it took a quarter of the votes in 2016.
In his speech, Meuthen said that "if we do things right this time," the party had a chance there to become "the strongest political force in a German state" for the first time.
The AfD, founded in 2013 as a party opposed to the euro currency, is currently the biggest opposition group in the Bundestag. But other parties have completely rejected the idea of forming a coalition with AfD after the national elections in view of its stances on immigration and European solidarity, among other issues.
tj/dj (dpa, AFP)