Germany’s AfD leader quits, leaving party in disarray
Far-right star drops ‘bomb’ with move to sit as independent MP
The leader of Germany’s nationalist Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party, Frauke Petry, shocked colleagues by announcing she will sit as an independent MP despite the party’s strong showing in elections in which it gained almost 13% of the vote and 90 seats in the Bundestag.
Petry, who is party chairwoman, walked out of a press conference today that was intended to mark the AfD’s historic showing after “months of feuding between her and the rest of the AfD leadership”, Germany’s Deutsche Welle says.
AfD co-leader Jorg Meuthen accused Petry of “dropping a bomb”, telling journalists he had no advance warning.
The far-right party capitalised on a nationalist backlash against Merkel's welcome for almost 900,000 migrants and refugees in 2015, making it the focus of its party platform, the BBC says. Petry was considered a uniter and an AfD moderate but sparked the wrath of right-wing nationalists who sidelined opponents as they gained strength within the party.
The AfD isn't the only German party in disarray today. Chancellor Angela Merkel began coalition building with preliminary results showing her CDU/CSU group as the largest winner, but with its lead cut to 33.5%, the party's worst showing since 1949.
Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democrats, says the party would rather become opposition leaders than enter another coalition with Merkel. If he changes his mind, however, as Merkel has requested, the AfD would be the largest party opposing Merkel, “an elevated role that would in itself be a shock to the German political system”, The Washington Post says.
The AfD is entering the Bundestag as the first party in more than half a century to offer an unapologetically nationalist, populist agenda. The party has been compared to the continent’s other disruptive political movements, such as Italy’s Five Star Movement and Spain’s Podemos.