Hardliners picked to lead far-right AfD into German general election
Tino Chrupalla and Alice Weidel beat moderate challengers in party vote
Two immigration hardliners have been picked to lead the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party into the country’s next election cycle.
Tino Chrupalla, 46, a painter and decorator from Saxony who has been an MP since 2017, backs the extreme wing of the party.
Alice Weidel, 42, is an economist and co-head of the party in the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of Parliament.
About 71 per cent of party members favoured the Weidel-Chrupalla alliance as its top candidates in an online vote against the more mainstream pair, Joana Cotar and Joachim Wundrak.
Ms Weidel said AfD would focus its campaign on the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Measures introduced to curb the spread of the virus were “excessive”, she said.
Germany’s restrictions were less strict than those in many of its European neighbours and it had fewer deaths per capita than France, Italy, Spain or Britain.
The AfD harbours many supporters who oppose Covid-19 vaccinations and have joined anti-lockdown protests.
The party's election manifesto includes a call to leave the EU.
The anti-immigration party is polling at around 11 per cent, down from nearly 13 per cent in the 2017 election.
Mr Chrupalla drew criticism during last year's Black Lives Matter protests when he said that multicultural countries were heading for a dead end.
The AfD was set up in 2013 as an anti-euro party during the eurozone debt crisis.
It has since shifted to the right and capitalised on voters angry at conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy toward migrants in 2015.
AfD became the third-biggest party in the 2017 election but Germany's mainstream parties refuse to co-operate with its members.
Mrs Merkel's ruling conservatives have slumped in recent polls as voters perceived mistakes in the handling of the pandemic, corruption scandals and internal fighting.
Her bloc named CDU leader and North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Armin Laschet as its candidate for chancellor in the election in September.
Mr Laschet won after a bitter contest with CSU leader Markus Soeder.
He has been promoted as a continuity candidate for Germany as it enters the post-Merkel era, but he is deeply unpopular among Germans.
The Social Democrats, Mrs Merkel’s current coalition partners, nominated Finance Minister Olaf Scholz as their candidate months ago.
Published: May 26, 2021 04:17 PM