The Thuringia Regional Court of Arbitration has refused to expel Bjorn Hocke from the party. Now it is the turn of the AfD’s federal executive committee.
Bjorn Hocke in Erfurt in 2017 Photo: ap
What was long expected is now official: the regional arbitration court of the AfD in Thuringia has rejected the party expulsion proceedings against state leader Bjorn Hocke. The decision was made after a long review on Monday, the state association announced on Wednesday. A nature relationship of Hocke’s statements with National Socialism, which the then federal board had accused the Thuringian in his exclusion application, are not to be determined. The Federal Executive Committee can now appeal to the Federal Arbitration Court. But it is unlikely that the court will decide to do so.
On the initiative of former party leader Frauke Petry, who has since left the AfD, and current parliamentary group leader Alice Weidel, the party’s then federal executive committee moved by a two-thirds majority in February 2017 to expel Hocke from the party. The motion was triggered by his controversial speech in Dresden, where he called for a "180-degree turnaround in remembrance policy" with regard to the Nazi era and ambiguously described the Holocaust memorial as a "monument of shame."
But the motion goes far beyond that. It says that Hocke’s publications and speeches show "in many individual points an excessive closeness to National Socialism", and that he has also written for NPD publications under the pseudonym Landolf Ladig. In addition, there is talk of "egomaniacal outbursts" and an "ego orgy". Hocke thus violated the order of the AfD and harmed the party.
The party’s expulsion procedure was highly controversial internally from the start and led the AfD to the brink of a new split. Critics have repeatedly accused Petry of wanting to get rid of an internal competitor.
Whether the federal executive board will accept the verdict is an open question
Steffen Moller, Hocke’s co-chairman in the state association, was pleased on Wednesday. He said the state board had already sharply criticized the federal board’s decision in February 2017, pointing to the lack of prospects of success: "The application for party expulsion was motivated solely by power politics." Moller called on the acting federal board to accept the verdict "as a final stroke" and "thus continue the path of cooperative coexistence of all currents taken after the end of the ‘Petry era’."
Whether the federal board will accept the Thuringia ruling or take action against it is still open. "The federal executive committee must now deal with the reasons for the verdict and decide what measures it will take," AfD deputy leader Georg Pazderski told the taz. He himself could only take a position once he had read the verdict. That is not the case so far, he said.
Pazderski is one of those who voted for Hocke’s expulsion from the party in the federal executive committee and is still a member of the committee. This also applies to faction leader Weidel, the vice chair of the faction, Beatrix von Storch, and Albrecht Glaser, like Pazderski vice head of the party. They have all recently avoided taking an open position on Hocke’s party expulsion – probably also because they wanted to be reelected. Alexander Gauland and Jorg Meuthen, on the other hand, the two party leaders, have always distanced themselves from the motion. They argue that party expulsion proceedings would not be appropriate and would also be difficult to enforce.
Roughly speaking, the Federal Executive Committee now has three options: It can go to the Federal Arbitration Court and challenge the ruling from Thuringia, i.e. continue to fight for Hocke’s expulsion from the party. He can initiate another disciplinary measure against Hocke. Or it can simply do nothing and see the Thuringia ruling, as Moller puts it, as the final straw. The members of the federal executive board must now take a stand.