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PEGIDA candidate Festerling withdraws from Dresden mayoral race

Tatjana Festerling of the anti-Islamization PEGIDA group has announced she will not participate in a run-off vote to elect Dresden's next mayor. She called on right-wing voters to support the pro-business FDP instead.

After achieving a surprising 9.6 percent of the vote in Dresden's mayoral elections on Sunday,

Tatjana Festerling

, the candidate from the anti-Islamization PEGIDA movement announced on Monday that she was withdrawing from run-off elections. She was speaking at one of the group's Monday demonstrations in Dresden, which helped catapult the anti-immigration organization into the international spotlight late last year.

Festerling, formerly an active member of the euroskeptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD) in Hamburg, instead called on her supporters to vote for the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), to prevent the success of Social Democrat (SPD), Left, Green and protest party coalition candidate Eva-Maria Stange.

Stange (SPD) took the lead in Sunday's first round of voting with 36 percent, but a winner must produce an outright majority in the first round to become mayor of Dresden, the capital of the eastern German state of Saxony.

The PEGIDA ("Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West") movement, which saw crowds of 25,000 join their marches during their height in January, has become stricter in its anti-migrant stance since

its leadership reshuffle in February.

No time for 'political harikari'

Festerling explained her decision by saying that this was not the time to "chart a course of political harikari, and to split apart the conservative middle-class to which we belong."

Calling on her supporters to vote for FDP member Dirk Hilbert, who is running as part of an independent alliance of civil liberty supporters, Festerling told Hilbert that as mayor he must represent "all the citizens of this city…including the 21,000 who voted for me."

Sunday's election was

a disappointing setback for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU)

, whose candidate Markus Ulbig received a mere 15.4 percent of the vote.

Run-off elections are set for July 5, where all candidates are allowed to contest the race once more. The second time around, however, the seat goes to the candidate with the most votes regardless of whether they are able to gain a 50 percent majority.

es/msh (dpa, EPD)

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