Despite an acute crisis, the AfD was able to significantly improve its election result compared to the European elections in 2019, receiving around 16 percent of the vote. It became the second strongest force in Germany and even the strongest force in the east. According to an ARD projection, the far-right party received 27.1 percent in the eastern federal states, including Berlin.

Overall, the AfD is doing better than recently predicted in the polls. AfD party leader Tino Chrupalla spoke on election night of a “historic result” – and of “backing” for the upcoming state elections in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg.

Nevertheless, the party remains far below the expectations that existed when the list was drawn up in July 2023. At that time, pollsters had rated the AfD at an impressive 23 percent in the EU Sunday question.

“I believe that we can only achieve something in Europe through cooperation,” said AfD MEP Maximilian Krah shortly after his successful application speech for first place on the list. One man wanted to know how Krah felt about cooperation with his partners in the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group.

The AfD is in a “very, very strong team” in Brussels and Strasbourg, Krah replied. He then reported on a meeting with a high-ranking official from the Italian Lega party. The party was under a lot of pressure to end its cooperation with the AfD, the official told him. However, he could say that a force that has over 20 percent in Germany “cannot and will not be ignored”. “We want to stay in the ID group,” said Krah.

Around ten months later, the very scenario that the 47-year-old had warned about internally but denied openly occurred: Lega and the French Rassemblement National terminated their partnership with the AfD shortly before the election. This was preceded by numerous scandals involving Krah and the Bundestag member Petr Bystron, who is in second place on the European list.

An interview in which Krah refused to describe all members of the Nazi terror unit SS as criminals brought about a definitive end to the cooperation with the Italian and French right-wing groups. Shortly afterwards, the ID faction expelled all AfD MPs.

In between lies an election campaign that was plagued with unprecedented scandals. There has probably never been a leading candidate in the history of the Federal Republic who was forced to stop making public appearances and resign from the federal executive board just weeks before the election. In April, the Federal Prosecutor General had a long-time close associate of Krah arrested, accusing him of espionage for a Chinese secret service in a particularly serious case. Krah himself is currently suspected of having accepted money from a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician. He denies this.

A survey conducted by the polling agency Pollytix between the end of May and the beginning of June suggests that the scandals surrounding Krah have caused considerable damage to the AfD. According to the survey, 48 percent of voters who were still planning to vote for the AfD in January but no longer did so at the time of the survey said that these scandals were a “convincing reason” not to vote for the AfD. 40 percent of this group cited “entanglements with Russia and China” as the reason for not voting for the AfD.

The AfD may have benefited from the most likely Islamist-motivated terrorist attack on the anti-Islam activist Michael Stürzenberger, in which a police officer was murdered. The party is believed to have a particularly high level of problem-solving skills when it comes to Islamism. In a representative study by the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research in 2021, 43 percent of respondents stated that the AfD was particularly committed to the fight against radical Islam – by a large margin compared to all other parties.

In fact, the AfD has taken a stand against Islamism since its founding, for example calling for a ban on the terrorist organization Hezbollah earlier than the federal government and repeatedly highlighting problems with mosques controlled from abroad. The boundaries of anti-Muslim resentment are repeatedly crossed.

In general, it is more difficult for the AfD to mobilize its supporters for the European elections. This is mainly because the party rejects the institutions of the European Union (EU), considers the EU itself to be an “undemocratic construct incapable of reform” and wants to replace it with a “federation of European nations”. According to its election manifesto, the AfD even wants to abolish the EU Parliament. “Until the situation is reorganized, the legislative power will be transferred to the Council alone,” it says. Lead candidate Krah described this in an interview in April as “unfortunately worded” and a “misunderstanding”.

In the Germany trend from the end of May, which Infratest Dimap conducted on behalf of ARD’s “Tagesthemen” and WELT, 36 percent of AfD supporters said they were not interested in the European elections. 41 percent also said they were dissatisfied with the AfD’s European election campaign.

In the coming days and weeks, the future of the AfD in the European Parliament will be decided. A renewed collaboration with the previous partners from France and Italy is considered rather unlikely after their separation and harsh words before the election. According to WELT information, however, there are still open channels of communication. Without a parliamentary group, the AfD would sink into insignificance – it would then have no influence and significantly less money and speaking time.

Krah’s Plan B of a self-proclaimed “hooligan faction” is controversial internally and is disparagingly referred to as a “scrap heap” in the current European delegation. The plan envisages cooperation with clearly extremist and pro-Russian forces, especially from Central and Eastern Europe.

It is still unclear whether Krah will play any role at all in the future delegation after the failed election campaign. Recently, there was even internal discussion about not even including him in the delegation. The same applies to Bystron. This benefits René Aust from Thuringia. Although he was only third on the list, he will probably lead the group of AfD MPs in Europe in the future.

The new delegation will meet in the Bundestag on Monday morning and decide on the leadership and a possible exclusion of Krah and Bystron. In addition to the newly elected MPs, the party leaders Chrupalla and Alice Weidel will also be present at the constitutive meeting.

According to WELT information, the party leaders of the French Rassemblement National, the Italian Lega and the other parties that belong to the current ID faction will meet on Wednesday. Several leading officials of these parties have a problem with Krah rather than with the AfD itself. This could also influence the decision as to whether the leading candidate is included in the delegation or not.