What harm does it do to join a cult?
Tino Chrupalla: "I am as uncomfortable with the personality cult around Björn Höcke as the one around Greta Thunberg"
Tino Chrupalla is Alexander Gauland's Crown Prince for his successor as co-head of the AfD. After his presentation, Chrupalla should lead the party in the future at the side of Jörg Meuthen. But whether the master painter from Saxony will be elected at the party conference on Saturday? He himself says: "Everything is possible with the AfD."
Mr. Chrupalla, who is now running in the election for the AfD party chairmanship: you or Alexander Gauland?
Mr. Gauland will no longer run and I will run for office. At least that's the current status. But as you know, anything is possible with the AfD. Party conferences have their own dynamics.
Why should the delegates choose you?
I could give the party a slightly different profile. I am not an intellectual, I have not received my doctorate or habilitation. I'm a master craftsman, and I want to address people like me who come from the middle class and win them over to the AfD. I come from East Germany - after the election successes in Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia, it would be nice if we East Germans were also represented at the top of the federal party.
When was the last time you painted a wall?
It wasn't that long ago. A quarter of a year ago when my daughter moved. I did not hand in my knowledge at the door when I came to the Bundestag. I am and will remain a master craftsman, and I attach great importance to this.
But as a parliamentarian in the Bundestag you are now a professional politician.
Yes, that's right, politics currently determine my everyday work and my life. My company still exists, my brother-in-law runs it, and I continue to give him my advice.
Your main competitor at the party conference would be Gottfried Curio, who recently and surprisingly announced his candidacy. What is the difference between you and him?
Dr. Curio is an academic, he is considered a brilliant speaker in AfD circles. As the domestic policy spokesman in the Bundestag, his main focus is on security policy. In comparison, I'm probably more of the down-to-earth type from the middle of society who relies on common sense. Maybe I'm a little more sociable than he is.
Are you more of the candidate from the AfD center, and Curio is the right one?
I wouldn't say that. But his choice of words is certainly sharper than mine.
Why is your choice of words not so sharp?
If you represent good content, you don't have to sharpen it at all. Besides, it's not my style.
Would it be generally good for the AfD to rhetorically take some pressure off the gas pedal?
Some of the people here would be good, yes. At the same time, we also consciously want to have a certain range of opinions and temperaments with us. We do not want to imitate the homogeneity and facelessness of the other parties.
At the 2017 party conference, Doris von Sayn-Wittgenstein was almost elected as AfD leader. She has now been expelled from the party because she supported a right-wing extremist association. Is the AfD now more solid?
Yes. The choice of such an outsider, who seems to come out of nowhere, is now very unlikely to me. 2017 will not be repeated.
Bernd Lucke has left the AfD, as has Frauke Petry - is the party chairmanship in the AfD the fastest way to say goodbye to the party?
Mr Gauland will presumably be the first party leader to step down without leaving the party. But I'm not running to say goodbye to the party, if that's what you mean.
Gauland has pacified the AfD to a certain extent, he takes on a role as a parenthesis in the party because most of the members can come to terms with him. Could you also fulfill this role?
I hope so. I am well connected and have experience in district, state and federal politics. I am an entrepreneur and I am not afraid of conflict. At the same time, I'm used to making compromises - that's exactly what a party leader must be able to do.
You do not belong to the Volkish "wing", but you can count on its support. What is this sub-group supposed to do, and does not its radicalism damage the party as a whole?
The CDU has a union of values, the SPD has the Seeheimer Kreis - we have the national-conservative wing. Such groups within a party are nothing special. With its electoral successes in Brandenburg and Thuringia, the wing has its justification.
The AfD likes to adorn itself with the label «bourgeois» lately - with politicians like Höcke and Kalbitz in the ranks, however, that seems very implausible.
Björn Höcke and Andreas Kalbitz are certainly not without controversy, but I would say that the party - both the members and the MPs - is largely bourgeois.
Höcke has given appropriate speeches that allow him to be classified as folkish. Kalbitz himself has to admit that he was wrong in right-wing extremist groups. The connections in question go well beyond his youth.
Mr. Kalbitz comes from the military. It is not uncommon for you to identify yourself very strongly with your fatherland and to be driven by the desire to protect your country. In most armies of the world you will find men who would be classified as right-wing extremists in Germany - certainly also in your Swiss army. The fact that we have a problem with our national identity in Germany is really no longer a trade secret. The word has even got around as far as India, as I recently discovered at an event when Indian journalists asked relevant questions. From a psychological point of view, it is not surprising that dealing with this complex can also lead to overreactions, although I prefer to deal with it sensibly.
Some AfD delegates would like to achieve at the AfD party congress that people from the “Identitarian Movement” are allowed to be party members. What do you think about it?
The Identitarian Movement is on our list of incompatibilities so far. Personally, I hardly know any members of the Identitarian Movement. It is organized throughout Europe, i.e. supranational, you don't really know who is behind it.
That means you are against it.
I will rather be against it.
Should you be elected: What accents would you set?
I want to strengthen the craft and medium-sized businesses. We still have a lot of voter potential there. I want to make politics for the people who add value and pay their taxes. We want to close the gap that the other parties have left. I have never changed my basic political attitude. I used to feel at home politically in the CDU, and for a short time I was also a member of the Junge Union. But the party has moved further and further to the left, with simultaneous neoliberalization - that has moved me to join the AfD.
What exactly was your motivation for joining the AfD in 2015?
As a medium-sized company, I no longer felt represented. There are 7 master craftsmen out of 709 members of the Bundestag. This is how you can recognize the misalignment.
«Academics are viewed more highly than craftsmen. The subliminal accusation quickly arises that one is intellectually not up to the task. "
Are you sometimes treated from above in politics?
It's not just like this in politics: academics are valued more highly than craftsmen. Subliminally, the accusation quickly arises that one is intellectually not up to the task. You occasionally feel that in the Bundestag, but I am not impressed.
The refugee crisis broke out in 2015. Was it irrelevant when you joined?
Asylum policy was not decisive. At the time, I was more concerned with criticizing the euro. I was bothered by the fact that German tax money was used to pay off the debts of other countries. The main program in my constituency in 2017 was internal security. There are many problems with theft and break-ins at the German-Polish border.
"The AfD has to be more disciplined - then it will also be easier to be perceived as a serious party."
Gauland said in an interview with the NZZ once: “There is a strange understanding of freedom of expression in the AfD. Everyone wants to talk about how their beak grew. That is our greatest difficulty. " Would you agree with that?
I see it similarly. The AfD has to be more disciplined - then it will also be easier to be perceived as a serious party. We have to make credible politics with our topics and content. We distort our content with harsh appearances. They then fall under the table.
The AfD is an opposition party, but it has no choice - neither party wants to form a coalition with it. Does the AfD have to change or the other parties?
In order to be able to form a coalition, everyone involved must move. We have to pay more attention to the content and present it in a reasonable tone. We should not move from our positions. But we should make it more difficult for the other parties to reject our content by making the arguments a little less polemical. If we avoid that, the intersections will also show up better.
When will Germany have its first state government with AfD participation?
Maybe in two or three years. You can see it in Thuringia: The strength of the AfD makes it very difficult for the other parties to form coalitions.
Are you only considering connections with the CDU and the FDP?
I don't want to commit myself to that. Wherever there is overlap, it is possible to work together. It's actually that simple. When you have to compromise, you sometimes have to jump over your own shadow. But we are already working together at the municipal level, and that cannot be avoided at all.
You did not do military service, but did community service. That doesn't go with your artisan image at all.
I would have had to leave my hometown for that. I did not want.
You didn't want to leave then. Why did you take the risk now?
I still don't want to leave. I still live there.
But you are now in Berlin as a politician. Why don't you just stay in white water?
I am still rooted there and will continue to live there. Berlin is not a home for me. I'm here during the session, but otherwise in Lusatia. There I have my family, my children, my memories.
Allow me a general question: Is there too much whining in eastern Germany and too little self-tackling?
No, that is not entirely true. The people lend a hand. Think of the upheavals of the 1990s. The people who stayed have done a lot. And after the fall of the Wall they were also very motivated and creative.
I mean today.
It is wrong to call this whining. They just clearly express their needs and their circumstances. You also have to understand people: they are simply afraid of losing everything all over again. Huge upheavals such as the complete collapse of a political system are not easy for a human soul to cope with; that leaves its mark. Perhaps one cannot understand that in Western Europe. The mood of optimism after the fall of the Wall has given way to a feeling of powerlessness, and politics is also responsible for that. The east of Germany is still a disadvantaged area. The district of Görlitz still has the weakest income structure in Germany.
Did you also operate in Saxony with the campaign slogan “Complete the turnaround”?
No we have not.
Do you think the turnaround was not properly carried out?
You can look at it that way, but of course it is an exaggeration. Basically, the slogan only wants to say one thing: There is still room for improvement in matters of freedom of expression, popular sovereignty and participation. The slogan also suggests: Today some things are a bit like they were in the GDR - you have to be careful what you say again.
You once spoke out against the personality cult of Björn Höcke, for example. You don't feel comfortable with it.
The personality cult around Björn Höcke is as unfamiliar to me as that around Greta Thunberg. Even if people clap for ten minutes during a speech at the CDU party congress, that alienates me. I think it's exaggerated.
"I put more energy into party work than I did on YouTube."
Gottlieb Curio is regarded as the agitator and YouTube star of the AfD. Are you too quiet, and could that be fatal for you against Speakers Curio at the party conference?
It remains to be seen who will prevail. I have my qualities and I have invested more energy in party work than in YouTube appearances.
Some AfD MPs are at war with the German media. How is it with you? In a circular you are said to have called for a “black list for dubious press representatives”.
There is no black list. I just pointed out that I no longer work with certain journalists. I don't need a list for them, I have the names in my head. Incidentally, Helmut Kohl also refused to give interviews to certain press representatives. I think that's legitimate.
So you would not agree to the great pathos of the lying press?
Not generally, gap press is more likely to hit it. I simply want journalism that reflects all opinions and points of view equally and that strives for balanced reporting. The division of our country also shares responsibility for the press, for example through one-sided, manipulative and tendentious reports. Gorbachev once stated that our press is the meanest in the world. That should give us food for thought. But of course there are misconduct in the party too, and these should also be criticized.
Which statements from party colleagues did you find wrong lately?
I don't want to give examples. Just this much: tweets without waiting to see how the situation really is and what the results of police investigations are, I find inappropriate. Unfortunately, politicians from all parties do that.
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