Prominent German nationalist to leave anti-immigrant AfD party
One of the most prominent figures in the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party said on Tuesday she plans to leave it – a move that displayed tensions as other lawmakers from the anti-migrant party gathered for their first meeting after a strong showing at the polls.
Alternative for Germany, or AfD, won 12.6 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s election to win seats in the national parliament for the first time. Frauke Petry, its cochairwoman since 2015, announced Monday that she would not join its parliamentary group and other leaders urged her to leave the party altogether.
“It is clear that this step will follow,” Petry said on Tuesday in the eastern city of Dresden, the DPA news agency reported.
Petry’s husband, Marcus Pretzell, the party leader in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia and a regional lawmaker there, added that he is also leaving AfD.
AfD won 94 of the 709 seats in the new German parliament, including Petry’s. It was not immediately clear whether any others would follow Petry, who moved AfD’s focus from opposing euro zone bailouts to migration after she took over in 2015 but has been increasingly sidelined in recent months.
Petry has said she was aiming to make the AfD ready for government in 2021, and urged her party earlier this year to exclude members who expressed extremist views. She said on Monday that “an anarchic party” can be successful in opposition but can’t eye a place in government, before storming out of a press conference and leaving other party leaders momentarily speechless.
Fellow AfD members appeared relatively unconcerned by Petry’s departure as they gathered in Berlin.
Asked whether other lawmakers will follow Petry, co-leader Alexander Gauland said: “I hope not, but I can’t look into people’s heads.”
Sunday’s election left Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc weakened but still easily the biggest group in parliament. Merkel now faces a complicated task in forming a coalition, most likely with the pro-business Free Democrats and the traditionally left-leaning Greens.
Her partners in the outgoing government, the centre-left Social Democrats, said they will go into opposition after they lost substantial support in the vote.
Merkel also faces calls from her own allies for a more robust conservative image.