Pre-election hints by Germany's populist AfD that it might back "sensible" motions tabled by the far-right extremist NPD have drawn an outcry. Social Democrats and Greens say AfD rhetoric put it outside democratic norms.
Alternative for Germany (AfD) co-chairman Jörg Meuthen, whose party looks set next Sunday to enter Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania's state assembly, sought on Thursday to distance his party from the NPD, an racist party facing widespread calls to be banned.
Meuthen on Wednesday echoed his leading Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania candidate Lief-Erik Holm by telling the "Mannheimer Morgen" newspapers that his AfD would be as little opposed to "sensible" resolutions irrespective of whether they came from the NPD or Germany's post-communist Left party.
Meuthen told German Deutschlandfunk public radio on Thursday that the NPD was an extremist party the AfD did not want to associate with, but he maintained that if it made "sensible" suggestions then his party would not oppose them. Meuthen told the radio station that the NPD was unlikely to win seats in the state election, making the debate about the AfD's ties to the party irrelevant.
Meuthen (pictured above) leads an AfD faction in southern state of Baden-Württemburg and is an avowed euro-skeptic in a party that has focused on public misgivings about Chancellor Angela Merkel's "we can do this" stance toward asylum seekers.
Merkel's CDU trailing?
A survey published Wednesday by Forsa showed the AfD polling 23 percent among the 1.3 million voters in Germany's northern Baltic coastline state and 12 percent nationwide.
That trend, if translated into votes on Sunday, would leave Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) trailing the AfD in her home state, with only region's governing Social Democrats still out front.
The NPD, which has held seats in Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania's assembly in the state capital, Schwerin, since 2006, was slated to receive 2 percent of votes in Sunday's election, Forsa reported, putting it below the 5 percent necessary to enter parliament.
Since its creation in 2014 on an anti-migrant and euro-skeptical ticket, the AfD has amassed opposition footholds in eight of Germany's 16 states. Entry into the Schwerin assembly would raise than count to nine.
Democracy being 'poisoned'
Opposition Greens co-leader Cem Özdemir told the "Heilbronner Stimme" newspaper the AfD had become a collecting pot for right-wing radicals and was poisoning democracy.
He said the party lay outside the democratic consensus and was no longer even bothering to don the sheep's skin - an allusion to the wolf wearing a fleece.
Manuela Schwesig, Germany's federal family minister and a Social Democrat who began her career in the Schwerin assembly, accused Meuthen and the AfD of "now fraternizing officially with the neo-Nazis to create a sort of brown coalition" - a reference to the uniformed "brown-shirts" of Hitler's 12-year regime.
The AfD in Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania could hardly be distinguished from the NPD, she told Düsseldorf's "Rheinische Post" newspaper.
The interior affairs spokesman for Merkel's conservatives, Stephan Meyer of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, told the "Handelsblatt" newspaper Thursday that he doubted that the AfD conformed with Germany's post-war constitution.
"Statements by several party functionaries" indicated unconstitutional tendencies, Mayer said.
Members of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group were determined to win voters away from what Mayer described as a "destructive" AfD that reacted to contemporary problems by proffering the public "yesteryear" solutions.
Reprimand in Saxony assembly
On Wednesday, Sebastian Wippel, an AfD opposition parliamentarian in Saxony's state assembly, was reprimanded by the house speaker.
Wippel had claimed that recent terror attacks in Munich and Ansbach stemmed from Germany's acceptance of asylum seekers, saying "regrettably" the violence had not reached leading politicians such as Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Marc Dietzschkau, a Social Democrat in Saxony's assembly, tweeted, "The mob in the Saxony assembly wants the terror-slaying of politicians."
Behind the mask - 'hatred'
German DGB trade union federation deputy leader Ingo Schlüter accused the AfD of having no fear of rubbing shoulders with neo-Nazis.
"Their rabble-rousing only differentiates itself in terms of [acoustic] pitch. Behind the civil mask of the right-wing populists the same hatred lies concealed," Schlüter said.
ipj/sms (Deutschlandfunk, dpa, Reuters)