Anti-Semitism row splits Germany's far-Right AfD party

far-Right German party which inflicted serious losses on Angela Merkel earlier this year is facing a damaging split which could jeopardise its chances in 2017 general elections.
More than half the Alternative for Germany (AfD)’s MPs in one of the country’s regional parliaments have left the party in a row over anti-Semitism.
Behind the dispute lies an increasingly bitter power struggle for control of the party, which has pitted the party leader, Frauke Petry, against the rebel MPs, led by Jörg Meuthen.
The AfD dealt out heavy losses to Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrat (CDU) party in regional elections in March campaigning on an anti-immigrant platform.
But the latest row means it has effectively lost one of its most significant gains in the March elections, after 13 of its 23 MPS in the Baden-Württemberg state parliament resigned the party whip.
The dispute began over writings by another of the party’s MPs, Wolfgang Gedeon, a former doctor.
Dr Gedeon claimed denial of the Holocaust was a legitimate expression of opinion, and described those convicted under Germany’s Holocaust denial laws as “dissidents”.
AfD supporters protest against German Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal policy towards taking in migrants CREDIT: GETTY
Mr Meuthen sought Dr Gedeon’s expulsion from the AfD but was unable to win a required two-thirds majority, and so led his supporters out of the party in protest.
Dr Gedeon has since resigned from the party after talks with Ms Petry, but Mr Meuthen and his followers have refused to return.
“Anti-Semitism cannot and must not have any place in the AfD,” Mr Meuthen said. He described the split as a “painful but necessary step”.
The AfD national executive dramatically sided with Mr Meuthen and the rebels, releasing a statement refusing to recognise the party’s own MPs who had not resigned.
“The board distances itself from those members who did not leave the parliamentary group with Jörg Meuthen. From now on we recognise only Jörg Meuthen and the MPs who support him as representatives of the AfD,” it read.
Ms Petry has tried to hold the party together, urging Mr Meuthen and the rebels to return.
“The division of the party must end now. This is a betrayal of AfD voters,” she said.
A rival faction which includes Mr Meuthen and two other prominent leaders, Alexander Gaulan and Björn Höcke, want to prevent her leading the party in next year’s general elections.
The power struggle has left the AfD unable to capitalise on recent developments which have strengthened far-Right parties in other European countries, such as Brexit and the court-ordered rerun of presidential elections in Austria.
Spiegel magazine described the dispute as a “veritable power struggle” which “could be the start of a disintegration process that takes hold of the entire party”.


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