Far-right party AfD hit by split at the top

Ms Frauke Petry announced in Berlin that she would take up her seat but would not be part of AfD's parliamentary group. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BERLIN • Divisions have emerged in the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) a day after it took third place in Sunday's election, as its co-leader said she would not join her party in Parliament.

Ms Frauke Petry, long considered the AfD's most recognisable face but has been less visible in recent months, stormed out of a news conference after saying she would take up her seat but would not be part of AfD's parliamentary group.

"I have decided I won't be part of the AfD's group in the German Parliament but will initially be an individual Member of Parliament in the Lower House."

Ms Petry made her surprise announcement after the AfD scored 12.6 per cent in Sunday's election, meaning it will be the first far-right party to enter the German Parliament in more than half a century.

"I think we should be open today that there is a disagreement over content in the AfD, and I think we shouldn't hush this up," she told a joint news conference with other party leaders.

She said her aim was to bring about a "conservative turning point" in Parliament in 2021, the next time Germany is due to hold a national election.

She declined to answer further questions, including whether she would remain the AfD's co-leader.

Mr Alexander Gauland, one of the AfD's top candidates, said neither he nor co-leader Joerg Meuthen knew why Ms Petry left.

Although its beginnings as an anti-euro party were rooted in populism, the AfD's rhetoric veered further right in the run-up to the election. Key members challenged Germany's culture of atonement over World War II and the Holocaust.

It also rolled out provocative posters declaring "Burkas? We prefer bikinis" and "New Germans? Let's make them ourselves", featuring a heavily pregnant white woman, to push its Islamophobic and anti-migrant campaign.

Yesterday, Ms Petry said the AfD, as an "anarchistic party", could be successful in opposition but would not be able to offer voters a credible option as a government. For this reason, she had decided not to take up her seat as part of the AfD group.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2017, with the headline 'Far-right party AfD hit by split at the top'. Print Edition | Subscribe