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POLITICS

German far-right AfD co-chief quits after election disappointment

The co-chief of Germany's far-right AfD Jörg Meuthen said on Monday that he would not seek to continue as head of the eurosceptic and islamophobic party.

Jörg Meuthen (left) with AfD co-leader Tino Chrupalla and AfD parliamentary leader Alice Weidel after a press conference in Berlin after the election.
Jörg Meuthen (left) with AfD co-leader Tino Chrupalla and AfD parliamentary leader Alice Weidel after a press conference in Berlin after the election. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

After six and a half “incredibly challenging” but also “enriching” years, Meuthen said in a statement that he would “no longer bear the role of federal spokesman” for the party.

Formed in 2013, the AfD first won seats in the German parliament in 2017 but lost ground in elections at the end of September this year.

Despite topping the poll in two former east German states, the party received around 10 percent of the vote nationally, down two percentage points on its previous result.

Meuthen, a member of the European Parliament since 2017, said he would continue his “political work” against “the course set by established parties in Germany and Brussels”.

READ ALSO: Germany’s far right AfD chooses hardline team ahead of national elections 

Victory for radical wing

Known as a more moderate figure within the party, Meuthen has been under attack from the more radical members of the AfD.

During a party congress in April, a group of delegates attempted to remove Meuthen from his role as co-party leader.

Meuthen sought in 2020 to dissolve the so-called “Wing”, the most extreme strain within the party, ejecting one of its principal figures, Andreas Kalbitz.

The anti-Islam, hard-right AfD has often courted controversy by calling for Germany to stop atoning for its World War II crimes.

One of its co-chiefs, Alexander Gauland, once described the Nazi era as just “a speck of bird poo” on German history.

READ ALSO: ‘Yes to Dexit’: Far-right AfD firms up election strategy

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POLITICS

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

While far-right groups have been celebrating, other politicians in Germany see the results as worrying. Here's a look at the reaction.

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

According to initial projections following Italy’s election on Sunday, the coalition led by Georgia Meloni and her radical right-wing Fratelli d’Italia party has won a majority of seats in the two chambers of the Italian parliament and will lead the next government. 

Meloni is a euro-sceptic who has previously spoken about having an “aversion” to Germany and referred to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as “socialist” while on the campaign trail.

However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s deputy spokesman Wolfgang Buechner told reporters on Monday: “We of course have to wait for the official final result from this election but at this time what the chancellor would say is that Italy is a very Europe-friendly country with very Europe-friendly citizens and we assume that won’t change.” 

READ ALSO: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

A Finance Ministry spokesperson added that Berlin expected the new Italian government to continue to respect the stability pact that sets the fiscal rules for the eurozone.

Despite these reassurances from the central government, German politicians in the EU parliament have expressed concern about the new direction for Italy.  

Rasmus Andresen, spokesman for the German Greens in the EU Parliament, said the “unprecedented Italian slide to the right” will have massive repercussions for Europe and for the European Union.

“Italy, as a founding member and the third strongest economy in the EU, is heading for an anti-democratic and anti-European government.”

Though Meloni no longer wants Italy to leave the eurozone, she has said that Rome must assert its interests more and has policies that look set to challenge Brussels on everything from public spending rules to mass migration.

The Greens’ co-leader in Brussels, Thomas Waitz, told Die Welt that the EU can only function if it sticks together, for example on cooperation in energy markets, decisions on Russian sanctions or dealing with the Covid crisis. “Meloni, on the other hand, would back national go-it-alones. It can be a disaster for Europe,”  he said. 

READ ALSO: Euro falls to 20-year low against US dollar

The FDP’s expert on Europe, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, takes a similar view. He said on ARD’s Morgenmagazin that cooperation with Italy in the European Union will become more difficult. He said that it will now be much more difficult to achieve unity in Europe, especially on the issues of migration, reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and the single market.

Speaking on RTL, Green Party leader Omid Nouripour called the election results in Italy “worrying” and pointed out that people within the Italian right-wing nationalist alliance have “very close entanglements with the Kremlin”.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that people in Moscow also popped the corks last night,” he said.

Germany’s own far-right party – Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – has been celebrating the victory. 

AfD member of the Bundestag Beatrix von Storch wrote “We cheer with Italy!” on Twitter late Sunday evening.

Referring to the recent elections in Sweden, where the right was also successful, von Storch wrote: “Sweden in the north, Italy in the south: left-wing governments are so yesterday.”

Her party colleague Malte Kaufmann tweeted, “A good day for Italy – a good day for Europe.”

With reporting from AFP

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