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AfD softens manifesto following leak

Ben KnightMarch 28, 2016

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has weakened some of the contentious elements of its manifesto in a new draft. The populist right-wing party is struggling to clean up its image after far-right links were exposed.

Deutschland Landtagswahl Berlin AfD
Image: picture alliance/dpa/W. Kumm

The AfD no longer wants to privatize unemployment benefits and state media organizations, or stop support for single parents, according to a newly-released 74-page draft manifesto, to be voted on at the party's conference on April 30.

An earlier version of the manifesto was leaked by the investigative journalist group "Correctiv" just ahead of the March 13 elections in which the AfD won significant representation in three state parliaments.

The leaked version contained a number of points that were widely criticized in the German media - not least the call to end state benefits for single parents. "Those who have fallen into this situation through no fault of their own of course deserve our empathy and the support of the community," the earlier draft of the manifesto said. "But we reject any state financing of the self-chosen lifestyle 'single parent.'"

Traditional families

In the amended version, the AfD has written that it only wants to "correct" the "financial burdens" of single parents, by creating a "legal system that takes into account the work of raising children." But the AfD remains convinced that the state should incentivize the "traditional" family model, which it calls the "nucleus of society."

Not only that, "we are strongly against the attempts of organizations, media, and politicians to propagate single parenthood as a normal, progressive, or even desirable lifestyle," the manifesto goes on to say. AfD leader Frauke Petry is herself separated from her husband, with whom she has four children, while her new partner, AfD European parliament member Marcus Pretzell, is also separated from the mother of his four children.

Other controversial points that have disappeared from the manifesto are the liberalization of drug policy, the ban on non-medical circumcision, and the privatization of state media (which it now only wants to reform).

But plenty of other aspects of the leaked manifesto have survived into the final draft - including lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 12 and scrapping Germany's Renewable Energy Act, designed to administer the country's transition to renewables.

Tim Sebastian vs. Frauke Petry

Damage limitation

There are signs that the AfD is trying to contain the turmoil that followed its dramatic electoral successes on March 13. On March 24, the party disbanded its branch in the state of Saarland after a magazine published evidence that party leaders in the state had maintained contact with neo-Nazis and attempted to woo political support from far-right activists.

"The party leadership has proven with this step, that it is willing to protect the political principles and the interior order of the party with all the measures available to it," the AfD said in a statement.

But as well as cleaning up its image, the AfD is trying to broaden its policies beyond the opposition to allowing refugees into the country. The party wants to weaken European integration, scrap the euro - one of its founding principles - and gradually reduce the European Union to a free trade zone. At the same time, the party wants to strengthen Germany's army - through compulsory military service.