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Infighting hits hard-right AfD after German vote success

Frauke Petry

Berlin, Germany | AFP | The nationalist Alternative for Germany was hit by party infighting Monday, just hours after winning its first seats in parliament, with its co-chief Frauke Petry declaring that she won’t join its Bundestag group.

Citing “dissent” with more hardline colleagues, Petry dropped her bombshell at a morning party press conference, catching other key AfD figures by surprise as she abruptly left the room.

The spectacle played out before the media put the spotlight on the tug-of-war within the party between radical and more moderate forces at the top, and raised questions on how far right it planned to position itself.

Although its beginnings as an anti-euro party were rooted in populism, the AfD’s rhetoric veered further right in the run-up to Sunday’s elections.

Key members challenged Germany’s culture of atonement over World War II and the slaughter of six million Jews in 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.

Outraged mainstream politicians have heaped on criticism, including Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel who had labelled leaders of the party “real Nazis”.

But even Petry herself had openly criticised one of her party’s two key candidates Alexander Gauland over his claim that Germany should be proud of its war veterans, saying that would lead voters to shun the party.

On Monday, seated next to Gauland, she declared that “there is dissent in the AfD over the issues”.

“I decided after careful reflection that I will not sit with the (AfD) parliamentary group” in the Bundestag, said Petry who added she will serve as an independent MP.

The open squabbling put a damper on the party’s success, and pointed to a potentially rocky future for the party in parliament.

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