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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Six injured and three arrested in far-left protest in eastern Germany

At least six people were injured and three arrested on Friday evening after far-left protesters clashed with police in Leipzig, eastern Germany, with more demonstrations expected on Saturday despite a local ban on marches.

Six injured and three arrested in far-left protest in eastern Germany

Protesters set up road blocks, started fires and threw projectiles at security forces from rooftops and on the streets to protest prison terms handed out to four far-left activists, police said.

At least five police officers and a reporter were injured during the protest, while three out of some 800 demonstrators were arrested.

“We have launched inquires into public disorder, dangerous injuries, assaults on police officers, damage to property and the illegal use of explosives,” Leipzig police tweeted on Saturday.

The unrest came after a court in Dresden, Saxony, on Wednesday sentenced a 28-year-old student identified in German media as Lina E. and three other far-left militants, known as Lennart A., Jannis R. and Jonathan M., aged between 28 and 37, to several years in prison.

Lina E. and the other defendants were found guilty of violent attacks on neo-Nazis and alleged far-right supporters between 2018 and 2020.

In particular, the group was found responsible for six attacks that injured a total of 13 people, with two suffering life-threatening injuries.

Since 2020, when Lina E. was remanded in custody, the slogan “Free Lina” has featured regularly at left-wing protests, with graffiti dedicated to the student now being a regular sighting on buildings in Leipzig, Hamburg and Berlin.

At the time of writing, it appeared that protests would continue on Saturday as far-left activists called on social media for a national day of action in Leipzig despite a ban on demonstrations issued by local authorities.

Leipzig police were reportedly “preparing for potential violence” as the available information “suggests that protesters will still gather in Leipzig on Saturday”, a police spokesperson told CNN on Friday.

At the time of writing, there was a possibility that further protests might be held in other German cities, including Bremen, Hanover, Hamburg and Berlin.