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Germany's populist AfD: From 'shoot the migrants' to race jibes

By AFP - Sep 04,2016 - Last updated at Sep 04,2016

BERLIN — Populist party "Alternative for Germany" (AfD) began life at the height of Europe's sovereign debt crisis in 2013 on an anti-euro platform, but it has now firmly repositioned itself as a xenophobic group.

After fears over a potential euro collapse waned, the party turned its anger against a million asylum-seekers who arrived in Germany last year.

It has steadily gained popularity even though leading AfD members regularly sparked outrage over racist remarks — including one suggesting that a German team with fewer non-white players could have beaten France in the Euro 2016 semifinal.

Exit polls in Sunday's regional elections in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania show support reaching around 21 per cent for the party, unseating Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) from second place.

Merkel had urged voters to shun AfD, which she described as a party that offers no solutions to problems, and which is simply a protest platform espousing hate.

Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has compared the AfD to the Nazis.

Founded by economics professor Bernd Luecke, the party quickly struck a chord with voters disillusioned with the politics of Germany's main parties, particularly Merkel's CDU, and drew those who were horrified at having to bail out southern countries.

Although AfD fell short of getting a foothold in the national parliament in 2013 elections, garnering 4.7 per cent rather than the 5 per cent threshold necessary to capture seats, it quickly showed that it was here to stay.

In May 2014, it sent seven deputies to the European Parliament with 6.5 per cent of the vote.

It continued to broaden its reach, capturing seats in the regional parliaments of Saxony, Brandenburg, Thuringia, Hamburg and Bremen.

 

'Shoot the migrants' 

 

But the AfD was soon riven by an internal rift between the moderate Luecke and the hardline Frauke Petry, which was tugging the party further right.

As Petry prevailed and took over as party chief in July 2015, the tone of the AfD lurched right, although it has also been careful to distance itself from neo-Nazi party NPD. 

Petry's ascent to power came just as Germany suddenly woke up to tens of thousands of asylum-seekers streaming into the country on a weekly basis.

Petry did not mince her words on her feelings towards migrants, unleashing a storm when she suggested that police should be allowed to shoot at migrants to stop them entering Germany.

"No policeman wants to fire on a refugee and I don't want that either. But as a last resort there should be recourse to firearms," said Petry, who has admitted employing provocation to make an impression.

Other members of the party have also drawn condemnation for making racist slurs, including against footballer Jerome Boateng, who was born in Berlin to a German mother and Ghanaian father.

AfD deputy leader Alexander Gauland had said in May that "people find him good as a footballer, but they don't want to have a Boateng as a neighbour".

 

Another deputy leader Beatrix von Storch also made a jibe at players with immigrant roots after Germany's 2-0 defeat to France, writing on Twi tter that "maybe next time the German NATIONAL TEAM should play again".

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