The candidate of the German anti-Islam movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) for the Dresden mayoral elections, Tatjana Festerling, has announced her withdrawal from the second round of mayoral elections
Festerling advised her supporters to vote for pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) candidate Dirk Hilbert in the second round, but she said that Hilbert must include "all the citizens of [Dresden]…including the 21,000 who voted for [Pegida]."
On Sunday, Festerling gained almost 10 percent of the vote in a local election in the east German stronghold.
On Monday, during a Pegida demonstration in Dresden, Festerling said that through her decision she was attempting to avoid "a course of political harakiri [suicide], and to split apart the conservative middle-class to which we belong."
Despite Pegida’s surprise gain in Dresden’s mayoral election, the joint candidate for the Social Democrats, Greens and far-left Die Linke - Eva-Maria Strange - came first with 36 percent of the vote, and was followed by the Free Democrats (FDP), which won 31.7 percent.
A candidate from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party was third in line, winning a total of 15.4 percent of the vote.
Run-off mayoral elections will be held on July 5, as no individual candidate managed to gain a majority.
Pegida, an anti-Islam and anti-immigration group established late last year, is seen as racist and borderline fascist by many in Europe and had drawn criticism from significant political figures, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
During her campaign speeches, Festerling emphasised her stance against migrants by criticising asylum seekers who have “left family and home because here there’s somewhere nice to live and you get dough from the state.”
The German based Pegida movement has gained supporters from many other countries - including Sweden, the United Kingdom, France and Austria - with its calls for more restrictive immigration rules, particularly targeting Muslims during its regular rallies.