Germany’s newly elected populist, far-right AfD: We will fight an “invasion of foreigners”

During the past year, as the party’s strength in the polls has grown, the party’s leadership has found itself embroiled in an increasingly intense infighting between more moderate and more extreme factions. The more moderate leaders, including the party’s star Frauke Petri, wanted to emphasize economic issues and avoid talking about the Second World War and the alleged injustices the Allies had inflicted on Germany. The more extreme factions, led by Gauland, wanted to emphasize issues such as immigration, German identity, threats to the “purity” of the German people, and the dangers posed to the “genuine” German culture and traditions by non-Christian, non-White immigrants and citizens of fellow EU member states who have “invaded” Germany and are threatening its character.

“One million people – foreigners – being brought into this country are taking away a piece of this country and we as AfD don’t want that,” Gauland told a press conference late Sunday. “We say we don’t want to lose Germany to an invasion of foreigners from a different culture. Very simple.”

Petri, who had fought in vain to purge Holocaust deniers from the party leadership at the local and state level, said on Monday that she would not caucus with the AfD delegation in the Bundestag, and said she would resign her position as co-chairperson of the party. There are speculations that she would form an independent party with about twenty elected AfD members who were elected to the Bundestag.

Analysts note that Petri may have been motivated in part by her loss to Gauland earlier this year in the contest over who would be presented to the voting public as the party’s “lead candidate.” By forming an independent faction, Petri, who is 42, may be calculating that she would have more freedom to lead on issues important to her – and then rejoin and run for the leadership of the AfD in four years when Gauland, 76, would no longer be in the picture.

The AfD won 12.6 percent of the vote, with 6.6 million Germans voting for it. The party is expected to take 94 seats in the 709-member Bundestag, making it the third largest party after Merkel’s CDU (33 percent) and the left-of-center SDP (20.5 percent).

The two leading parties were dealt a blow on Sunday. Angela Merkel will remain Germany’s chancellor, but the 33 percent her CDU party gained was the worst result in about seventy years. The SPD, with 20.5 percent of the vote, saw its lowest level of support in more than fifty years.