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Pegida leader seeks political alliance with Germany's AfD

The 'anti-Islamization' Pegida protest group proposed partnering with the right-wing populist AfD. Polls show at least 10 percent of voters support the AfD, whose co-chair dismissed such an alliance.

Dresden Pegida Demonstration Lutz Bachmann

Lutz Bachmann is the founder and head of the Pegida group

Looking to gain from the

political boost the far-right populist Alternative for Germany party (AfD) has received

amid mounting public concern over the migration crisis, the anti-Islamic Pegida movement has suggested forming a political party and cooperating with the AfD.

Once pulling up to 20,000 protesters to

weekly rallies in Dresden

last year, Pegida, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, has witnessed numbers at its protests dwindle to the low thousands as the movement has been beset by scandals and pro-immigration counter-demonstrations.

At the same time, as the refugee crisis in Germany mounts, the right-wing AfD has seen its support in polls rise to 10 percent - a trend that has caused alarm among Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats in her grand coalition.

Pegida's controversial leader, Lutz Bachmann, has now revived earlier calls to form its own party at a rally attended by an estimated 3,000 protestors in Dresden on Monday.

Without answering how and when the anti-Islam movement would become a party, Bachmann said the AfD and Pegida should come together on a joint electoral list, citing a "large overlap" in the two groups' concerns.

The proposal, however, appears to have little traction. AfD co-chair Frauke Petry said over the weekend that she understands why citizens protest in the streets, but that the AfD would remain independent from any other party or movement.

Afd Bundesparteitag in Hannover Frauke Petry

AfD leader Frauke Petry made skeptical comments about partnering with another party

The AfD, running on a nationalist platform that includes distancing Germany from the European Union, has capitalized on opposition to Chancellor Merkel's refugee policy to boost its numbers.

Already having garnered the 5 percent minimum support to join several state parliaments, the

party rose to as high as 17 percent in surveys in Saxony-Anhalt

just a few weeks ahead of regional elections there, placing it ahead of the long established Social Democratic Party (SPD).

AfD looks set to enter three state parliaments in regional elections in March, this could provide sufficient momentum for the AfD to join the federal parliament, or Bundestag, next year.

cw/gsw (dpa, epd)

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