The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party suffered another blow Tuesday when 13 of its lawmakers in a key state legislature split from the party's parliamentary faction over allegations of anti-Semitic comments by one its members.
The AfD members' move to follow their chief, Joerg Meuthen, in leaving the party's faction in the Baden-Wuerttemberg Parliament follows stunning AfD electoral gains in March in the traditionally conservative south-western state.
Amid Germany's refugee crisis, AfD won 23 seats in the Baden-Wuerttemberg legislature after capturing 15 per cent of the vote, and secured big swings in elections held on the same day in the neighbouring state of Rhineland-Palatinate and the eastern region of Saxony-Anhalt.
The AfD has since been mired in a new round of controversies and power struggles between the party's national leadership and its more extreme wing.
"We emphatically regret having to carry out the split," said Meuthen, who secured the backing of the party's executive for his faction's move.
Anti-Semitism must not play a role in the party, he said.
AfD members decided to walk out of the faction after the failure of a vote to oust one its members, Wolfgang Gedeon, over alleged anti-Semitic remarks.
The party members seeking to expel Gedeon, who among several comments has described a Holocaust denier as "a dissident," needed a two-thirds majority to succeed.
Gedeon told dpa late Tuesday that he was withdrawing from the AfD parliamentary faction, in hopes of preventing the split.
Meuthen later told dpa that the walkout by his AfD faction remained valid, with a meeting planned for Wednesday in an attempt to found a new faction in the state parliament. "Then there will be an AfD faction free of anti-Semitism," he said.
Founded three years ago as a eurosceptic party, the AfD has since lurched to the right, with the party emerging as a major critic of Islam in Germany and expressing opposition to Berlin's liberal stance on refugees.
Despite the British vote last month to leave the European Union, which was widely expected to boost eurosceptics across the continent, AfD support in Germany has slipped 1 percentage point to 10 per cent since the "Brexit" referendum, according to Berlin pollsters Forsa.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - 09:25