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ELECTION

‘Yes to Dexit’: Germany’s far-right AfD firms up election strategy

Germany's far-right AfD party vowed to campaign for an end to coronavirus restrictions, a tougher line on migration and an exit from the EU as it finalised its election manifesto on Sunday.

'Yes to Dexit': Germany's far-right AfD firms up election strategy
AfD faction heads Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland. dpa | Kay Nietfeld

On the second day of a congress to firm up its strategy ahead of Germany’s election on September 26, the anti-Islam, anti-immigration party voted to call for a complete ban on refugees being joined by family members.

Party members agreed to come out against “any family reunification for refugees”, revising previous wording that had called for such reunions to be allowed only under exceptional circumstances.

The AfD had on Saturday voted to include a call for Germany to leave the European Union in its manifesto, as well as vowing to demand an end to coronavirus measures, complaining of a “politics of fear”.

The AfD has often sought to capitalise on anger over Germany’s coronavirus measures ahead of September’s election – the first in 16 years not to feature Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is bowing out of politics.

Some AfD members have courted controversy by joining anti-vaxxers and “Querdenker” (Lateral Thinkers) at various demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions.

AfD co-leader Jörg Meuthen on Saturday vowed to dispel “these orgies of bans, these jailings, this mania for locking down”.

With Merkel and state leaders expected to tighten infection control measures further this week, the far right unveiled its election slogan of
“Germany. But normal” — at least in part targeting coronavirus restrictions.

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 coronavirus pandemic, and has lately been plagued by internal divisions and accusations of ties to neo-Nazi fringe groups.

Latest surveys have the party polling at between 10 and 12 percent, with Merkel’s CDU/CSU on around 27 percent and the surging Greens not far behind.

SEE ALSO: Anti-mask MP from AfD in hospital with coronavirus

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SPORTS

Germany players cover mouths in protest for World Cup photo

Germany's players covered their mouths for the team photo before their World Cup opener against Japan on Wednesday in protest at FIFA's refusal to allow rainbow-themed armbands.

Germany players cover mouths in protest for World Cup photo

Captains of seven European teams had planned to wear the anti-discrimination armbands during the tournament in Qatar as part of a campaign for diversity.

But they backed down over the threat of disciplinary action from football’s governing body, including yellow cards.

The rainbow armbands had been viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

Germany’s football federation tweeted in English moments after the photo protest: “It wasn’t about making a political statement — human rights are non-negotiable.

“Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser did wear the “OneLove” armband as she watched the game sitting next to FIFA president Gianni Infantino at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

She said FIFA’s ban was a “huge mistake”.

READ ALSO: German sports minister to attend World Cup amid human rights row

Not only players, but fans should also be allowed to show pro-LGBTQ symbols “openly”, Faeser told reporters in Qatar.

Supporters should “make a decision for themselves” about whether they wanted to wear the symbols, Faeser added.

The German government spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, said earlier in the day in Berlin that FIFA’s decision to bar captains from wearing the “OneLove” armbands was “very unfortunate”.

“The rights of LGBTQ people are non-negotiable,” Hebestreit said at a regular press conference.

Security staff at the World Cup have ordered spectators to remove items of clothing featuring rainbow logos.

Underlining tensions at the tournament over the issue, Belgium’s Jan Vertonghen said on Tuesday that he was “afraid” to talk about human rights. Vertonghen, speaking on the eve of Belgium’s opening game against Canada later Wednesday, said he did not feel comfortable.

“I’m afraid if I say something about this I might not be able to play tomorrow,” the defender said.

“It’s an experience I’ve never felt in football before. I feel controlled. I’m afraid to even say something about this.

“We’re just saying normal things about racism and discrimination and if you can’t even say things about it, that says it all.

“I want to appear on the pitch tomorrow, so I’ll leave it at that.”

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