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Germany’s far-right AfD chooses hardline team ahead of national elections

Alternative for Germany (AfD) on Tuesday chose a hardline duo over a more moderate alternative to lead it into September's election, the first in 16 years not to feature Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany's far-right AfD chooses hardline team ahead of national elections
Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla on May 5th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Co-president Tino Chrupalla and parliamentary group co-leader Alice Weidel won 70.03 percent of the vote in a ballot of party members, beating rival duo Joana Cotar and Joachim Wundrak, a party spokesman said.

The anti-Islam, anti-immigration party has long been divided between a radical faction loyal to firebrand Björn Höcke and a moderate wing around party co-leader Joerg Meuthen.

The choice of Chrupalla and Weidel represents a victory for the more radical wing of the party, which is campaigning on a vow to end virus restrictions, take a tougher line on migration and pull Germany out of the EU.

At a party conference to firm up the AfD’s election manifesto in April, Chrupalla and Weidel backed radical policies including a complete ban on refugees being joined by family members.

At the congress in Dresden, the AfD also voted to reject compulsory mask-wearing, which it said was “based on numbers that are not meaningful”.

READ ALSO: ‘Yes to Dexit’: Far-right AfD firms up election strategy

The AfD has long sought to capitalise on anger over virus measures in Germany, with members joining anti-vaxxers and “Querdenker” (Lateral Thinkers) at various demonstrations.

Starting out as an anti-euro outfit in 2013, the AfD capitalised on public anger over Merkel’s 2015 decision to allow in a wave of asylum seekers from conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The party caused a sensation in Germany’s last election in 2017 when it secured almost 13 percent of the vote, entering parliament for the first time as the largest opposition party.

But it has lost support as Germany reels from the Covid-19 pandemic, and has lately been plagued by internal divisions and accusations of ties to neo-Nazi fringe groups.

The latest surveys have the party polling at between 10 and 12 percent, with Merkel’s CDU/CSU and the Greens neck-and-neck on around 25 percent. September’s election will be the first in 16 years not to feature Merkel, who is bowing out of politics.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

It's official - people in Germany will get cheap public transport for three months this summer after the €9 ticket was approved.

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

As part of a host of energy relief measures to cushion the cost of living crisis, the German government is offering cheap public transport for the months of June, July and August. 

Monthly tickets will be available at a price of €9 (or €27 for all three months) and they will allow people to use all buses, trains and trams in local and regional transport throughout the country.

So even if people buy the ticket in Munich, they will also be able to use local and regional buses, trains and trams elsewhere in Germany, whether it’s Hamburg or Cologne. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

The ticket will not be valid, however, on long-distance transport such as ICE trains or Flixbus.

The offer was put together by the coalition government – made of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP.

The Bundestag voted for the initiative on Thursday, agreeing to give federal states a subsidy of €2.5 billion to fund the project. 

And on Friday, the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament that represents the states – gave the green light to the ticket, paving the way for it to begin on June 1st. 

States had wanted an extra €1.5 billion funding boost to deal with lost revenue, however it would have been hugely controversial if they had blocked it.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block the €9 ticket in the Bundesrat

During a debate on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the €9 project was “already a success”.

“All of Germany is talking about local public transport,” he said, adding that it is also being viewed with interest abroad. 

READ ALSO: ‘Fantastic’: Your verdict on Germany’s €9 ticket

The Left party (Die Linke) voted in favour of the €9 ticket, but leader Bernd Riexinger said he thought the plan didn’t go far enough. “Three months is simply too little,” he said.

The opposition, however, slammed the move. Christian Democrat Michael Donth called it an “expensive experiment”.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn will offer the ticket for sale as early as Monday. Local public transport providers across the country are also preparing their ticket machines for the initiative. It will also be available in travel centres.

People with subscriptions to local transport will automatically benefit from the offer. 

In some regions, such as Stuttgart and Freiburg, the ticket is already available for purchase.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin

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