Votum in Lower Saxony: How the AfD wants to use the frustration for the state elections

Votum in Lower Saxony: How the AfD wants to use the frustration for the state elections

Wtypes on the AfD top candidate Stefan Marzischewski-Drewes in Hanover-Ricklingen. People smoke a lot in front of the district center. An older AfD supporter reports on her “Monday walks” against the Corona measures and recommends a video on “PI-News”, a proven right-wing extremist Internet portal according to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. “And then there are the really crazy ones, they think the federal government is the legitimate boss,” complains a gentleman in a T-shirt. “These puppets!” Two AfD members of the Bundestag stand by and do not contradict.

Reinhard Bingener

Political correspondent for Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Bremen based in Hanover.

The top candidate for the upcoming state elections on October 9th arrives and you go inside the concrete building. A few copies of the conspiracy mythical “Compact” magazine are spread out on a table next to the entrance. “Vaccine dictatorship – boosters until death” says one cover. Another issue polemicized against “blue ghost drivers” in the ranks of the AfD parliamentary group, who voted for arms deliveries to the “Ukrainian Nazis”.

The “Stammtisch” begins, around 40 listeners have gathered. First, the local list candidate, Omid Najafi, introduces himself. The young man simply got up at the party conference, gave a speech and then promptly received a promising seat, says the local AfD grandee Jörn König. “Job?” calls a listener. “I trade on the stock exchange – privately,” Najafi replies.

Commissioning of Nord Stream 2 required

And then it is the turn of top candidate Marzischewski-Drewes. The 56-year-old doctor from Gifhorn talks about the excesses of bureaucracy in healthcare. “It’s the end of December and they’ve done 49 hip surgeries. They are supposed to operate on 50 hips a year. What happens?” asks Marzischewski-Drewes and spares his listeners the answer. “And yes, I also go for a walk regularly on Mondays,” explains the top candidate and receives the strongest applause for it. However, Marzischewski-Drewes is not a corona denier. The radiologist working in a medical care center does not deny the existence of the virus or Covid deaths. “I’m not a conspiracy theorist. But there was far too much coercion.”

With a view to the winter, Marzischewski-Drewes is calling for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to be put into operation. However, the top candidate would like to maintain sanctions against “Putin and his entourage”. “Some in the AfD are too naive about Putin,” says Marzischewski-Drewes. “Without a NATO protective shield, Putin would march to Berlin.”

With such positions, which are moderate by the standards of the AfD, Marzischewski-Drewes fits in with the current of the so-called bourgeois, who are on the rise again in the grueling power struggles in the Lower Saxony state association. The state association was led by Armin-Paul Hampel, who was close to the “wing”, until 2018, then by the moderate Dana Guth, who was replaced in autumn 2020 by Jens Kestner, who was close to the “wing”. Shortly thereafter, Guth and two other MPs left the AfD parliamentary group in the state parliament, which lost its parliamentary group status and had to lay off its employees.

In the AfD federal executive board, although itself traversed by deep rifts, the state association in Lower Saxony is considered a serious problem. And it is difficult to predict whether, with Marzischewski-Drewes in first place on the list and Ansgar Schledde, who is even more influential within the party, in second place on the list, there will be more calm in the state association or whether the conflicts between the camps have simply been put on hold. Marzischewski-Drewes himself tries to stay away from the trench warfare. He locates himself “in the middle” between the currents. When the list was drawn up, Marzischewski-Drewes received a remarkably good result by AfD standards.

Lower Saxony is traditionally a difficult place for the AfD. The ties to the major parties have been relatively intact here so far, and there are few deindustrialized regions in which the AfD electorate is often concentrated. However, the hope of the other parties that the AfD will miss its return to the state parliament after the crumbling of its parliamentary group is unlikely to be fulfilled. In the polls, the AfD is even ahead of the FDP and is recording rising values. The high energy and food prices are the big issue in the election campaign, says Marzischewski-Drewes.

The crucial question is therefore: “What are all the frustrated people doing? Do they stay at home like in North Rhine-Westphalia, or do they go to the polls?” In the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, the AfD still had to contend with a massive mobilization problem in its strongholds and only got 5.4 percent. The mood is very different now, Marzischewski-Drewes believes. His ambitious target: “Twelve percent plus x.”

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