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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Germany’s defence minister visits Ukraine: ministry

Germany's Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Saturday, her first since Russia's invasion in February, as Kyiv urges Berlin to send it battle tanks.

Germany's defence minister visits Ukraine: ministry

Lambrecht visited the southern port city of Odessa, the German defence ministry said in a statement, without saying how long the trip had lasted. It added on Twitter that she had met her Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov.

So far, no NATO country has supplied Western battle tanks to Kyiv.

Ukraine has repeatedly sought Leopard battle tanks from Germany to aid in its counter-attack against Russia, but Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government has refused.

Scholz has said he doesn’t want to go it alone on arms supplies and will only take decisions in consultation with his Western allies.

Lambrecht reiterated this stance in Odessa: “We will always confer with our partners about what Ukraine needs,” she said.

“From my impressions today, air defence and artillery are currently at the forefront,” she told public broadcaster ARD.

She added that she had seen how the “populations were tormented by drones”.

Lambrecht’s visit came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the annexation of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

These annexations have been unanimously condemned by Ukraine’s allies.

“Germany will never recognise the results of the sham referendums” in the four regions, Scholz told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone on Wednesday, according to the chancellor’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.

Scholz travelled to Ukraine in June, and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has visited Kyiv twice.