Party congress in the middle of the pandemic: AfD fails with lawsuit against mask requirement

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In the midst of the corona pandemic, the AfD is holding on to its federal party conference with 600 delegates. However, the party cannot disregard the mask requirement. In the event of a violation, the exclusion follows, in the worst case the termination. But that is not the only thing that the party leadership has to struggle with.
Bizarre backdrop for a controversial event: In the midst of the second Corona wave, the AfD wants to come together for a federal party conference on Saturday. In Kalkar on the Lower Rhine, on the site of the nuclear power plant that has never been commissioned, she wants to decide on her first pension concept. The big question is whether the party that sympathizes with the corona deniers from the “lateral thinking” movement complies with the strict hygiene requirements on the basis of which the two-day party congress was only approved. A lawsuit by the party against distance and mask requirement was unsuccessful.

The participants of the federal party conference must wear an everyday mask even if the minimum distance is observed – delegates must be excluded from the event in the event of violations. This was decided by the Higher Administrative Court (OVG) Münster by means of an emergency decision, as the court announced. The AfD and two party members had applied for the provisions of the NRW Corona Protection Ordinance on which the mask requirement is based to be temporarily suspended.

According to the regulation, there is an obligation to wear an everyday mask regardless of compliance with a minimum distance, including at the so-called permissible events, which include the AfD party congress. The OVG Senate found that these regulations were proportionate and did not violate the principle of equal treatment. The obligation to wear an everyday mask at an event that is exceptionally permitted under the Corona Protection Ordinance serves the legitimate purpose of curbing the spread of the corona virus.

Police because of protests with large numbers on site

Despite its generality, the regulation did not inappropriately affect either the organizer or the participants, it said in the urgent decision. The mask requirement also applies to the seats, as the court ruled. For speeches with a minimum distance to other people, the mask may be temporarily removed, as well as “necessary ingestion” of food and drinks. In addition, if the event lasts for a longer period of time, participants in the assembly can visit places where there is no mask requirement, for example during breaks.

The far right camp is not a fan of party leader Jörg Meuthen.

(Photo: dpa)

AfD-own stewards and forces of the Kalkar Ordnungsamt should control the mask requirement in the hall, in which up to 800 people will be, including 600 delegates. Should they not succeed, the police would not be far – because of the protests against the AfD party congress, they are already on site with a large contingent. The event could “become a hotspot,” said Kalkar’s mayor Britta Schulz in advance. It is “irresponsible” but permissible. AfD boss Jörg Meuthen defended the meeting and said that the party would “strictly adhere” to all conditions.

But even without the special external circumstances, it should be a turbulent party conference. Three years after its entry into the Bundestag, the AfD offers the image of a divided party, with a right-wing camp whose weight does not diminish even after the official “wing” dissolution. On the contrary – according to the President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Thomas Haldenwang, the influence of the “wing” people around Björn Höcke from Thuringia is even greater.

AfD boss Meuthen under pressure

The party congress should therefore also provide information about how radical the party is now – and how powerful Meuthen’s adversary. Because the far-right camp still has a bill with the party leader. Finally, at Meuthen’s instigation, the AfD federal executive board decided in May to kick out Höcke’s confidante Andreas Kalbitz. His post as an assessor in the federal board is now to be reassigned in Kalkar. The office of federal treasurer will also be filled.

How great the anger against Meuthen in the right-wing AfD camp is, could be shown in application SN-3. The Freiburg district executive demands that the federal party congress disapprove of “the divisive behavior” of Meuthen and his supporters. The party congress should also determine “that the fall in the electorate is causally related to it.” If the application got a majority, Meuthen would be badly damaged. The right-wing Freiburg local politician Dubravko Mandic is behind the motion and has repeatedly drawn attention to himself through rabble, violations of the law and right-wing attacks. He is considered a bitter opponent of Meuthen.

The endless power struggles in the AfD seem to have left their mark. At nine to ten percent, the polls are rather weak – compared to the fact that the party was able to win up to 18 percent of the voters’ favor in 2018.

AfD politicians regularly participate in “lateral thinking” demonstrations

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Definitely not an everyday venue: The AfD party congress takes place in the former Kalkar nuclear power plant.

(Photo: dpa)

The AfD also does not seem to be able to benefit from its attacks on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Corona policy. At the end of March, the party wanted to support the measures, but then quickly turned around. In the Bundestag, co-parliamentary group leader Alexander Gauland recently railed against a “Corona dictatorship on revocation” and accused the federal government of “war propaganda”. AfD politicians regularly take part in the “lateral thinking” demonstrations.

The fact that two right-wing Youtubers urged parliamentarians from other parties in the Bundestag last week at the invitation of AfD MPs brought the AfD a lot of trouble. Gauland even apologized for the behavior of these “guests”, the two MPs were sanctioned by the AfD parliamentary group.

The disruptive actions triggered reflections on a ban against the AfD – which Meuthen rejected as “absurd”. For the party, observation by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution is much more concrete. Perhaps in December, the President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution Haldenwang could announce a decision, as the magazine “Cicero” reported. With the mortgage from an anti-constitutional party, the election year 2021 is likely to be even more difficult for the AfD.



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