The story of the scandal hits the news agencies, yet few know German politics well enough to explain what actually happened. On the standard general election press conference of conservative party AfD Frauke Petry, who serves as a co-chair of her party, announced that she won’t join the party’s fraktion.
The news agencies Reuters, Associated Press and AFP don’t bother to explain what a fraktion even is and as a consequence readers of English news outlets will find the story inscrutable. They just translate it with parliamentary group or parliamentary party (which is utterly confusing).
It is not uncommon that a member of parliament who does not vote with his fraktion will be punished by the group. This is known as fraktion discipline (German: Fraktionszwang).
The punishment can be that a candidate may no longer be put on the voting lists of the following election. Germany is a collectivist culture, which also means that we vote in a collectivist system. The parties compile lists of their candidates in advance of an election and the seats of the parliament will be filled with the candidates on the list in proportion of the seats the party wins.
It is still possible to run for a seat without being on a list. It is just much more difficult. Green party veteran Christian Ströbele was removed from the list of his party after he voted against sending troops to Afghanistan, but he still won his seat in the two following elections. Most candidates run on a party list ticket and also for a specific seat at the same time.
Another punishment for voting against the fraktion can be the expulsion from it. In this case the speaker of the parliament will offer an MP less speaking time than members of the parliament who belong to a fraktion. It is also common that the party will expel the MP.
Frauke Petry decided not to even join the fraktion which means that she can legally been excluded from her party and that the speaker will award her less speaking time. She will also be hampered in her work in the parliamentary committees. In exchange the small c conservative can vote and speak independently of her party and can ensure that conservative policies are indeed promoted and ultimately put into practice.
Members of the AfD’s highest party committee such as Alice Weidel and André Poggenburg have called for her exclusion from the party. This is a pity because much of the AfD’s appeal was their proposals to cut down on collectivism, e.g. by reducing party control over election lists and to introduce referenda on important policy decisions.