Merkel hangs on, AfD leader quits party after German election breakthrough
Berlin, Sep 25 (IANS) The Alternative für Deutschland’s (AfD) co-chair Frauke Petry announced on Monday that she will not be joining her party colleagues in the Bundestag after the far-right party won around 13 per cent of the vote in the German election.
Frauke Petry walked out of a press conference at which the party leadership marvelled at its success, having secured 88 seats in the federal Parliament and marking the first time in almost six decades that an openly nationalist party will enter the Bundestag.
“I decided after careful reflection that I will not sit with the (AfD) parliamentary group,” Petry told a Berlin press conference before abruptly exiting the room without taking any questions, leaving her colleagues visibly baffled, the Guardian reported.
Co-chair Jorg Meuthen claimed he did not know anything about her “bombshell” decision and Alexander Gauland, one of the party’s founding members, said he did not think her move was in any way related to statements he had made.
Gauland was referring to a video that had recently emerged in which he said that Germany should be proud of its soldiers that fought in both World Wars, a position that Petry had hotly criticised.
After her announcement, she told reporters that the party “should be open about the fact that there is conflict regarding content within the AfD, we should not pretend it doesn’t exist”, adding that the group had been anarchic in the weeks leading up to the election and “could not offer voters a credible platform for government”.
Petry, a co-chair of AfD since 2015, was one of the most recognisable faces of the far-right movement.
Following its historic election surge on Sunday, the AfD became the third political power in Germany, but the party has been wracked by in-fighting for months.
Its presence in the Bundestag has shifted Germany’s political landscape.
Chancellor Angela Merkel secured her fourth term in office in the federal elections but her Christian Democratic bloc (CDU/CSU) must now embark on a series of negotiations in order to form a functioning government using its 33 per cent of the vote (246 seats) as leverage.
Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which took 25 per cent of the vote, has already said that his party will enter into the opposition, meaning Merkel may be forced to seek cooperation with the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Green Party.
The FDP and the Greens took 10.7 and 8.9 per cent of the vote, respectively. Both the parties intensely dislike one another but are cautious of losing credibility with their voters.
Talks between the parties, which will also include the CDU’s Bavarian sister party the CSU, could potentially last until after Christmas and risk triggering fresh elections if they collapse.