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German right-wing AfD splits in state parliament

July 6, 2016

The populist AfD has split into two groups in the German state parliament of Baden-Württemberg, announced AfD co-leader Jörg Meuthen. The decision follows uproar over anti-Semitic remarks by one of its lawmakers.

AfD Co head Jörg Meuthen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Schmidt

State parliamentary leader Jörg Meuthen, announced the creation of a new parliamentary group called "Alternative for Baden-Württemberg" on Wednesday - splitting off from the state's original Alternative for Germany (AfD) group.

Just one day prior, Meuthen held true to his promise to resign if his group could not vote to oust a fellow Baden-Württemberg AfD lawmaker over his anti-Semantic remarks. Along with Meuthen, 12 other AfD state lawmakers out of 23 left the original parliament group.

"We are the AfD," emphasized Meuthen on Wednesday, after announcing the creation of "Alternative for Baden-Württemberg."

Frauke Petry, chairwoman of the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD), and AfD leader Joerg Meuthen
The dispute has deepened the leadership split between Meuthen (L) and Petry (R)Image: Reuters/W. Rattay

The feud pits the AfD's most public face, Frauke Petry, from the eastern, ex-communist state of Saxony, against AfD co-chief, Meuthen, who leads the party in western, conservative Baden-Württemberg.

Petry criticized

Fellow AfD co-head Petry stood by the remaining members of the original parliamentary group on Wednesday, cementing the party split.

"This is the AfD faction in Baden-Württemberg," Petry said in reference to the state parliament's 10 remaining AfD state parliamentarians.

Petry has come under harsh criticism for getting involved in the Baden-Württemberg dispute, with the party's national deputy leader Alexander Gauland calling her decision to intervene a mistake.

"Unfortunately, questions of power have eclipsed substantial issues," said Gauland.

The original dispute in Baden-Württemberg involved anti-Semitic remarks from the AfD lawmaker Wolfgang Gedeon. In his earlier writings, Gedeon downplayed the Holocaust and described Judaism as a "domestic enemy" to Germany whereas Islam was an "external enemy."

Deutschland Wolfgang Gedeon
AfD lawmaker Gedeon previously called Judaism Germany's "domestic enemy"Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Weißbrod

After speaking with Petry and following Meuthen's resignation, Gedeon also resigned from the group on Tuesday but remained part of the local parliament as an independent.

In his outgoing remarks on Tuesday, Meuthen said that he believed "anti-Semitism cannot and may not have any place in the AfD."

Infighting ahead of election

In state elections in March, the AfD garnered 15.1 percent of the vote in Baden-Württemberg and captured 24.3 percent of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt.

Founded in 2013 as a protest party focusing mainly on financial neoliberalism, the AfD has seen its polling numbers rise significantly since pivoting towards anti-migrant rhetoric in the wake of Europe's refugee crisis.

The internal row casts new doubt on the success of the party ahead of Germany's general elections on 2017.

rs/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)