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Germany: Far-Right AFD Picks Top EU Election Candidate

Incumbent EU Parliament member Maximilian Krah was elected with 65.7% of the votes. The AfD’s party congress was in the eastern German city of Magdeburg as it made significant gains in the polls.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD)

on Saturday voted for incumbent EU Parliament member Maximilian Krah to lead its 2024 European Union election campaign. 

Krah won the vote with 65.7% in favor.

“We are now the most exciting right-wing party in all of Europe,” he was quoted as saying in his candidacy speech.

Several days have been set aside for the choice of candidates, with the party congress scheduled to be continued next weekend. 

What do we know so far?

The party, which is gaining in polls of German voters, is holding a first conference in the eastern Germany city of Magdeburg until Sunday. Protests against the AfD have been taking place in the city, as DW’s Thomas Sparrow has reported on Twitter.

The talks on EU candidates come after the party voted to boost its ties with other far-right parties in the EU.

Delegates yesterday voted in favor of the party leadership’s intention to join the far-right (Identity and Democracy) ID Group in the European Parliament. The ID group includes France’s National Rally, which is led by Marine Le Pen, and Italy’s Lega. 

The AfD currently has nine parliamentarians in the European Parliament but now expects to have as many as 20 amid surging popularity ratings in recent opinion polls.

The AfD also elected Petr Bystron, a Bavarian Bundestag lawmaker, as second place on the party’s EU Parliament candidate list. 

Rene Aust of the central state of Thuringia was elected in third place. The Thuringian branch of the AfD is under investigation by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency after being classified by it as extremist.

Anti-EU, anti-migration sentiment

The opening remarks by co-chair Alice Weidel at the congress reflected the fact that leading AfD officials are in favor of reducing the EU itself to a mere economic union, with many even wanting to see Germany leave the bloc.

The goal of the AfD at European level was to see the power of the EU institutions reduced, she said.

“We are working to strengthen nation-states within the EU,” she said.

The party leadership is even in favor of abolishing the European Parliament itself, the very institution within which it wants to increase its numbers.

Weidel also underlined her party’s anti-immigration agenda.

“We must build a fortress around Europe,” she said, adding that the AfD was pursuing this goal “together with our European partners.”

Weidel also called on other German parties to drop their objections to working together with her party. Mainstream parties such as the conservative CDU and center-left SPD have ruled out a governing coalition with the AfD, deeming its far-right positions to be too extreme. 

“How undemocratic is it to simply exclude millions of voters who vote for us?” Weidel said. “We will talk with anyone,” she added, saying that the AfD was “the party of freedom and entrepreneurship and workers; we are the party of tax payers in this country.”

Weidel did, however, rule out any cooperation with the Greens, who with the SPD and business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) currently govern Germany in a three-way coaltion.

“The only thing we need is a bulwark against the Green ship of fools that is running this country into the ground,” she said. 

Her remarks on the EU were seconded by Björn Höcke, the chair of the Thuringian branch of the AfD, who has been classified as right wing extremist by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.

“This EU must die so that the true Europe can live,” Höcke said in an interview with broadcaster Phoenix, calling for a new European alliance of states.

AfD picking up support among German economic woes

The AfD is currently polling at around 18% to 22% among the German public, according to recent opinion surveys. The party won its first governing post in the eastern German town of Sonneberg in June, and also won a mayoral election for the first time shortly thereafter.   

The rise of the party, which engages in anti-migrant and nationalist rhetoric, has managed to pick up disconcerted voters as Germany grapples with a stagnating economy and inflation.

The party has also raised concerns amid many observers because of the close association of several members with Russian officials and an apparent sympathy with Russian propaganda with regard to alleged “reasons” for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, of the center-left Social Democratic Party, has downplayed the AfD’s swelling poll numbers. He believes AfD will not perform any better than it did in the 2021 German federal election, where the party garnered 10.3% of the vote.    

Source : DW

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