Verena Hartmann gave just four speeches in the plenary hall of the Bundestag, according to the Parliament's media library. Group colleagues describe the 45-year-old member of the Bundestag AFD from Saxony as unremarkable. From March to mid-2019, she hardly took part in a vote in the plenary, since mid-November she has not participated in any.
Verena Hartmann is the fifth member to leave the AfD and thus the parliamentary group. Frauke Petry was already in 2017, shortly after the AfD moved into the Bundestag. The NRW MP Mario Mieruch followed her days later. A year later, the North Rhine-Westphalian digital politician Uwe Kamann gave up. Shortly before Christmas 2019, the Saxon federal police officer Lars Herrmann decided to withdraw. So now the native Saxon Hartmann.
As non-attached, they are all sitting in the back row of the plenary hall behind their ex-party colleagues. When these lone fighters speak at the lectern, there is no hand to applause.
This already has consequences for the AfD parliamentary group, which has shrunk to 89 MPs: with each renegade MP, it pays almost 10,000 euros a month from the box office of the Bundestag on. In addition, in the debates of 60 and 90 minutes length, their speakers can only speak seven instead of eight minutes. However, nothing changes in the half-hour debates. Their presence on the committees of the Bundestag is also not yet diminishing.
Internally, the AfD now worries that Hartmann was not the last to leave. Because the reasons given by the former AfD members of the Bundestag are similar: Hartmann complains that she can no longer "support the legal course of her party". The "change of the AfD is sealed" by the nationalist party wing around Björn Höcke tolerated by the party leadership, she wrote on Facebook. Anyone who resists "against this extreme right-wing trend" will be relentlessly pushed out of the party. Lars Herrmann had also complained about Höcke's growing influence in the party and said: "That is not what I imagine AfD politics to be." And Kamann lamented "the permanent, progressive radicalization" of the party.
After the AfD was founded in 2013, many entered politics who would never have done so without the Lucke and Petry party. There are an above-average number of practitioners here, people with long professional experience. Some gave up secure livelihoods for their mandate as entrepreneurs, self-employed or officials. It is quite possible that further AfD parliamentarians will soon consider whether they are aiming for a lackluster future in a radicalizing but low-impact opposition party or returning to their own roots.
Many professional soldiers, police officers and civil servants
The top of the parliamentary group officially regrets the withdrawal of each individual, but is reluctant to make forecasts. Among the parliamentary group members, however, a bloodletting is expected: "It is quite conceivable that one or the other MP will go there soon," says the NRW parliamentarian Rüdiger Lucassen.
However, some in the parliamentary group consider criticism of the party's legal stance to be advanced. The decisive factor is rather the fear of the future, one can hear: Many self-employed and entrepreneurs in the AfD faction complain about customer loss and renegade clients – because of their political commitment. And the officials in the party could face employment law problems if the protection of the constitution should put the Höcke wing or even the entire party under surveillance. The authority should announce the decision in spring. Hartmann and Herrmann are trained police officers. There are five more in the parliamentary group alone, plus professional soldiers and other civil servants.
Given these risks, it makes sense to reorient yourself before further damage occurs. Because especially in the East German AfD, a future in politics is ruled out for all those who oppose Höcke's course. "One or the other member of the parliament may suspect that they would not be successful in drawing up the list for the next federal election," says Lucassen. In fact, none of the dropouts would have a real chance of being re-elected to the Bundestag as a candidate for the Bundestag. And other parties are unlikely to give ex-AfD members a chance.
Mentally confused, not a migrant
Hartmann has felt the harshness of political business several times. Their network was thin, the working atmosphere quickly poisoned after the election: a colleague threatened her during a parliamentary meeting: "We'll get you ready," snapped the Saxon Höcke friend Jens Maier. Hartmann initially evaded: she left the Höcke-hearing men's group of the state group of Saxon AfD MPs and docked with the north group – which includes the parliamentarians of the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Association, which is less radical in East German terms. From this distance, she signed the appeal of the 100 against the I course of the Thuringian AfD nationalist Höcke, which further intensified the contempt of the Höcke-hearing Saxons for Hartmann. It soon became clear that anyone who opposed Höcke would hardly have a chance in the AfD in East Germany.
When her parliamentary colleague Nicole Höchst, in a request to the Federal Government, established a connection between disabilities due to family marriage and migrants, the estrangement continued. Hartmann tweeted her name accidentally among the signatories when criticism of Höchst's concerns turned into indignation. In addition, Hartmann is not only a victim of her own party. Public reactions to you were devastating Tweet Hartmanns, who followed the AfD principle of maximum mood-building: in 2019 she wrote about Chancellor Angela Merkel, cursing the "day of her birth". The reason was that at Frankfurt Central Station a man had pushed an eight-year-old boy and his mother in front of an ICE. But the man was mentally confused and not a migrant, as Hartmann indirectly suggests. Hartmann has since deleted her Twitter account.