Germany's Eurosceptic party Alternative for Germany has elected two new top candidates for the September general election.
Last week, the party’s leading politician, Frauke Petry, said she wouldn’t be available as candidate for the chancellorship.
Members of the AfD elected Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel on Sunday at their party convention in Cologne.
Gauland, 76, is one of the party’s most prominent members and considered one of Petry’s main rivals. Weidel, 38, is a consultant from southwestern Germany. Divisions erupted among the different factions of German Eurosceptics as delegates from the AfD rejected an appeal Saturday by Petry to seek a pragmatic solution.
Petry introduced a motion in which she said the AfD should be open to join coalitions in future, instead of only being a “fundamental” opposition party, but such a discussion was rejected by a majority of delegates around midday.
It was the former CDU functionary Gauland who criticized Petry and Pretzell in the past for their alliance with the French Front National and its leader Marine Le Pen while he preferred to be closer to French liberal-conservative Francois Fillon.
In Stuttgart last year, the AfD had debated Germany’s membership of NATO. The draft for a basic program, which was submitted by the federal executive committee as a guiding principle, did not provide for a withdrawal from the Western military alliance.
The Thuringian AfD party and parliamentary party leader Björn Höcke questioned NATO membership. Höcke explained to Die Welt that the AfD was about “German interests” – and “unconstrained about taboos for foreign policy”.
On the subject of defense policy, there were already numerous amendments during a previous AfD party congress, which were supportive of Höcke. Supported by more than 50 members, the party direction had previously been quite frank: “We call for the withdrawal from NATO.”
The Brandenburg AfD boss Gauland, however, told the conservative weekly newspaper Junge Freiheit: “I am personally of the opinion that Germany is right to be in NATO right now.” A Germany without NATO involvement would provoke mistrust among its neighbors, he added. “We do not have to start such a project,” said Gauland.
Two police officers have meanwhile been injured and a car was set on fire when violent leftist mobs in Cologne, tried to stop the anti-immigration party holding their convention.
Broadcaster n-tv showed a mob of around 50 demonstrators clashing with mounted police. A television correspondent said police had used pepper spray against some of the demonstrators.
Some 600 AfD delegates were meeting to shape policy for September’s national elections, but had to rely on heavy police protection to enter the convention centre.
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