Former PEGIDA leaders set their sights on direct democracy | News | DW | 02.02.2015
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Former PEGIDA leaders set their sights on direct democracy

Forget 'anti-Islamization.' A group that has broken away from the popular right wing movement PEGIDA now wants to start a new series of rallies in the city of Dresden focusing on other issues.

Kathrin Oertel announced at a press conference on Monday that the new group "Direct Democracy for Europe" will hold its first rally on Sunday, the day before the next planned march by anti-Islamization group PEGIDA, of which Oertel was a leader until she stepped down last week.

According to Oertel, the goal of the rally is "the introduction of direct democracy in Germany at all levels," similar to the use of referenda in Switzerland, where all citizens are allowed to vote on certain issues. Oertel expects about 5,000 people to attend the demonstration, due to take place in Dresden's Neumarkt square, significantly less than the 17,000 at the last PEGIDA demonstration in the same location.

The themes of asylum and immigration will still play a role "no matter what" Oertel said, but this time the rally will focus more specifically on "every citizen of EU-countries having a voice in the government."

A more detailed policy paper will soon be uploaded to the group's Facebook page, Oertel promised.

Not a PEGIDA counter-movement

The demonstration is no way a "counter movement to PEGIDA," Oertel clarified, rather it is simply a "conservative" movement that is "in touch with the people," and wants to offer a more right-leaning voice to politics than is, as Oertel believes, currently offered by Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).

As for her decision, along with five other organizers, to step down from the leadership of "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West" (PEGIDA), she cited the scandal over co-organizer Lutz Bachmann posing as Hitler in a photo on social media. Another reason was the questionable connection with LEGIDA march in Leipzig, attended by xenophobic self-styled "hooligans," something Oertel said made her feel "horrified."

Alternative für Deutschland Bundesparteitag 30.01.2015

Bernd Lucke, one of AfD's leaders, told the Bild Newspaper that Oertel had joined their ranks. Not so, she says.

The furor over Bachmann's photo and the crumbling of the organizational team caused PEGIDA to cancel a march for the first time since October. What happens next remains to be seen, though many doubt it can continue with the same numbers as before. However, the movement does have a march planned for February 9.

Bachmann had wanted to joined the organizational team for the new movement, but Oertel and the other leaders refused. Oertel also use the press conference to deny that she had joined the right-wing euro-skeptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD), calling co-chair Bernd Lucke's statement that she had done so a "false claim."

es/rc (AFP, dpa, epd)

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