Erfurt / Berlin (dpa) - "I often went this way on the heights", it resounds from the loudspeakers. After the Rennsteiglied, the secret Thuringian national anthem, followed by a polka - then Björn Höcke appears on the small stage with the AfD logos.
The leading AfD candidate for the state election on Sunday in Thuringia and controversial spokesman of the right-wing AFD wing has scored dozens of these appearances in the election campaign.
And he has his listeners. Even if he talks about "AfD-bashing" for almost an hour, as in Erfurt, public appeals by the "cartel parties," or a "multiculturalisation" of Germany, or studies that many East Germans do not dare, are open accept. Critics who accuse the AfD, she was stalker for right-wing extremists like the assassin of Halle, who wanted to murder people in a synagogue, the AfD top man does not go. In addition to the AfD supporters in front of the stage many people remain, some make a cell phone photo of Höcke. But many also pass quickly. "I feel a bit uncomfortable here," whispers a woman.
According to recent election polls, the AfD could get 20 to 24 percent of the votes in the state election (2014: 10.6 percent). That would be a strong increase, but less than in the neighboring state of Saxony two months ago, where it became the second largest party with 27.5 percent. The number of AFD members in parliament is likely to double, even if the party lands behind the left and possibly the CDU.
Although Höcke calls in the election campaign a list of projects - including a "deportation initiative 2020" has the 47-year-old former high school teacher no government option. All other parliamentary parties, ie CDU, Left, SPD and Greens, and the FDP, which is in surveys by five percent, exclude a cooperation with Höckes AfD. It is considered a stronghold of the "wing", which the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution classifies as a suspected case for right-wing extremist tendencies.
Is the AfD elected because of or despite the right wing Höcke? The Erfurt political scientist Andre Brodocz says: "According to the survey results, one must say: despite Höckes. He has less approval than other country politicians of the AfD. "According to research group elections for the ZDF Höcke on a scale of plus to minus five very negative with minus 3.5 rated. "Even among the AfD supporters Höcke receives only a value of 0.7," says the statement to Politbarometer.
Brodocz: "But that does not stop people from voting for the AfD because they want certain topics such as migration to be discussed in the state parliament. For that they accept to be represented by Höcke. That is very noticeable. "The top candidate is still no burden for the party, says the Erfurt professor. Without humps, the AfD would not necessarily get more votes, because the right wing serve a certain electorate. Others, as the political scientist Hajo Funke believe, without Höcke and the Brandenburg AfD boss Andreas Kalbitz, the AfD would have better maps in the East.
According to a survey by infratest dimap for the ARD, 72 percent of the citizens share the opinion that the AfD in Thuringia does not distance itself enough from right-wing extremist positions. 22 percent rather disagree with this statement, with the AfD supporters it is even 69 percent.
Could the state election in Thuringia be the springboard to the executive committee of the national leadership of the AfD? On the composition of the new party leadership, which is to be elected at the end of November in Braunschweig, the result of the state election, according to information from AfD officials have no direct influence. However, the fact that the East should receive more weight in the panel is very likely. "If we have three East German regional associations with Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia, where the result will be similar - I'm quite confident - then we have three times very excellent election results," says party leader Jörg Meuthen.
From this of course the claim is derived, "to be adequately represented in the governing bodies of the party". As a promising candidate for the successor to the co-chairman Alexander Gauland is Tino Chrupalla. The Saxon member of parliament was indeed this summer guest at the annual meeting of the right-wing national "wing". However, he does not count himself among the followers of the association. If one asks the master painter, who does not notice by shrill tones, why he does not want to actively participate there, he answers: "I do not need that, I am Saxon."
On Monday after the election, then all three - Gauland, Meuthen and Höcke - to appear on the podium of the Federal Press Conference in Berlin. Höcke has agreed to come, assures a spokesman for the party. In recent weeks, he had little desire to meet with the press. The established media have made "the devil of the nation" out of him, says Höcke in the election campaign.
October survey research group elections for ZDF
Poll for the ARD