Delegates at a barricaded Cologne congress of Germany's right-wing populist AfD party have rejected a motion from leader Frauke Petry.
Six hundred delegates of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party rejected a late agenda item from Petry, billed by her as a decision to offer voters pragmatic civic policies instead of nationalism tending toward far-right ideology.
Initially, it remained unclear whether the AfD would use its weekend conference to pick lead candidates for its campaign for Germany's federal election, which will be held on September 24.
Last Wednesday, Petry announced she was no longer available to head the AfD campaign team in what was seen as a challenge to inner party rivals, co-leader Jörg Meuthen and deputy chief Alexander Gauland from the state of Brandenburg.
Meuthen, in his opening conference remarks, accused Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Social Democratic party's (SPD) new leader Martin Schulz of conducting politics to the "detriment of the German folk," a term with far-right connotations.
If the AfD did not bring about a decisive gear change, "then the irretrievable changes to our homeland will, with mathematical certainty, turn it into a Muslim-shaped country," Meuthen asserted to AfD delegates' applause.
Petry, who remains co-leader alongside Meuthen, accused Germany's churches of being sharply critical of the anti-immigrant AfD by issuing "ugly, depreciating and polarizing remarks."
ipj/jlw (AFP, dpa)