Cracks are appearing in the leadership of Germany’s far right within hours of its electoral success on Monday.
The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) shocked the establishment by winning 12.6 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election after a campaign that channeled public anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to leave Germany’s border open to migrants.
The result made the AfD the first far-right group to win seats in the Bundestag since the 1950s.
What has happened?
The party’s highest-profile figure in its more moderate wing stormed out of its victory news conference and abandoned its parliamentary group.
42-year-old Frauke Petry has been the most recognisable face in the AfD during its swift rise over the past two years.
However, she said she could not stand with an “anarchistic party” that lacked a credible plan to govern and would sit in parliament as an independent.
She says the AfD should be ready to join coalition governments. However, other party figures said it should stick to opposition. All established parties have refused to work with the AfD.
Petry’s husband, Marcus Pretzell – head of the AfD in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and also an MP in the European Parliament told reporters he would leave the party on Friday.
Is this the first sign of discord?
No. Petry, who was co-leader of the AfD, had come into conflict with other senior figures in the party in recent months. She says she understands why some voters are alarmed at some of their radical rhetoric.
Who is Frauke Petry?
Once seen as a radical for transforming the AfD from an obscure group opposed to eurozone financial bailouts into Germany’s leading anti-immigration party, Petry had distanced herself from other top AfD candidates before the election.
She had sought to have the party expel Bjoern Hoecke, a senior party official who courted controversy by denying that Adolf Hitler was “absolutely evil” and calling Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial a “monument of shame”.
She has been less visible as a figure since a surprise decision in April not to run the party’s election campaign.
What are the experts saying?
Thomas Jaeger, a political scientist at Cologne University, said Petry would now need to leave the party. Her decision would likely help the AfD because its parliamentary group would be more cohesive without her.
What others are saying
“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,” – Petry said as she left the party’s news conference.
“It is always a shame w hen someone very talented leaves the party and Frauke Petry is very talented. But I must not that she wasn’t much help recently in the campaign,” – Alexander Gauland, one of the AfD’s top candidates, told reporters.