Roughly two thousand delegates of the AfD Party (the Alternative for Deutschland, or anti-immigrant group) met yesterday (Sat) in Stuttgart, for the party congress meeting.
Based on news media reports (both state-run and newspapers), I can make five observations.
First, they were mostly going to talk over fourteen key points of their policy program for this weekend meeting. It's supposed to end by early afternoon today (Sun). So far, as they closed last night....they had wrapped up the talk and vote on two topics. The odds that all fourteen topics will get talked on and voted? I have my doubts.
There was a fair amount of discussion over the anti-Muslim platform, and I think that consumed half of the meeting yesterday. It's safe to say that after immigration and integration issues....this will rank up near the top on their agenda.
Second, two thousand members showed up and the hall was fairly full and enthusiastic. The crowd outside? Well....cops had to show up because around 500 to 1,000 protesters were gathered, and got pretty rowdy. The news media was careful and only filmed very minor portions of the anti-AfD groups. My guess is that it was such a small group in the protest.....that they didn't really want to do wide-film shots and show just three-hundred folks in some big scene (mighty limited deal if it was less than 500).
Third, the AfD is staking out a position of not allowing Turkey into the EU. It'll be curious how this plays out and if some national pattern of German support also goes in this direction. For years, it was pretty much concreted down that neither the SPD or CDU would support Turkey's entry. The Greens were in opposition to this. With the immigration crisis in full bloom and the necessity of Turkey holding back the refugees.....both the CDU and SPD has to bend over backwards to make Turkey happy.
Fourth, based on comments and speeches....none of the AfD leadership folks did anything really stupid in their speeches yesterday. They did hammer away at Chancellor Merkel and positions by the CDU/SPD government. While things were a bit slow, at least by judging the comments by the reporters....nothing went wrong at the meeting so far.
Fifth, if national leadership out of Berlin were hoping that things were lessening and voters were going to return to the wonderful umbrella of the CDU and SPD parties (center-right and center-left), I think the meeting displays the ongoing trend of popular support and long-term strategy by the AfD.....to the journalists, intellectuals, and Berlin leadership. AfD is the only alternative for these major issues. Whether by accident or orchestrated in a purposeful way....all five parties in Berlin basically have diluted themselves enough to be one functional group without much difference. If this were a brewery with five distinctive beers in production, and they all tasted the same....the brewery would be in trouble.
A final note.....they did cover an odd group of AfD....the Saarland AfD branch....which had a number of connections back to the pro-Nazi crowd. After some debate....they removed this branch and require a new group to band together and apply for membership within the national AfD Party. In some ways, they are trying to make sure their brand and their culture isn't too "brown" or gets too much negativity by the news media.
For the two state elections in the fall, this probably sets up a number of positives and three months from now....the next big meeting will be the entry into another election period.