Germany's far-right AfD elects new faces for national polls

Anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany picks right-wing Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel for September polls. The move came after the party rejected its best-known politician Frauke Petry's appeal to adopt a moderate-sounding plan.

Photo by: (AFP)
Photo by: (AFP)

Alice Weidel (C) and Alexander Gauland (2nd R) celebrate their nominations during the party congress in Cologne.

Germany's far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) has elected two new senior candidates for the September general election, after the party's best-known politician, Frauke Petry, said last week she wouldn't be available.

Members of the AfD elected the right-wing politicians Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel on Sunday at their party convention in Cologne.

Divisions erupted among the different factions of the German right-wingers as delegates from the populist AfD rejected an appeal on Saturday by Petry to seek a pragmatic political path instead of turning into a "fundamental opposition" party. 

Around 600 delegates rejected Petry's call to adopt a more moderate-sounding "Realpolitik" programme intended to shut down the party's more extremist voices, including those who have attacked Germany's Holocaust remembrance culture.

"I will step aside during the campaign, as that's what the party congress apparently wants," Petry said, while pledging to remain party co-chairwoman "for now".

As long as the party is not willing to say in what direction it wants to go, a team will have to lead the campaign that can deal with this indecision better than I can — Frauke Petry

Petry's chief rival Gauland - a hardline defector from Merkel's CDU - was widely mentioned as a candidate to join the AfD campaign team. But even he expressed regret that Petry, who is very popular with the party's base, will not be front-and-centre on the campaign trail.

Weidel, a openly lesbian and former Goldman Sachs investment banker, has railed against "an army of millions of uneducated migrants from the Middle East and Africa who expect a free ride" in Germany. 

Petry, a former chemist, was handed a further setback on Saturday at the gathering in the western city of Cologne, which drew several thousand protesters and required a security detail of 4,000 police officers.

Leftists demonstrators have been protesting against anti-immigration AfD's meet in Cologne since Saturday. [Reuters]

Plummeting support

The AfD has seen its support plummet as the refugee influx to Germany has slowed in recent months, after Chancellor Angela Merkel let in more than one million asylum seekers since 2015.

The party, now represented in 11 of Germany's 16 states, aims to sign off on a programme that will pave the way for it to enter the national parliament for the first time in its four-year history. 

It includes calls to stop family unification of refugees already in Germany, strip immigrants convicted of "significant crimes" of their German passports, and declare Islam incompatible with German culture. 


TRTWorld and agencies