Saturday 20 January 2018

German far-right leader Petry stuns party with talk of quitting

Frauke Petry of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Photo: Reuters
Frauke Petry of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Photo: Reuters

Justin Huggler

The leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has indicated she may stand down less than six months before national elections.

Two months after she stood alongside Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders at what was billed as an "alternative European summit", Frauke Petry stunned party supporters by announcing she was considering quitting politics altogether.

"Neither the politics nor the AfD are indispensable for me," Ms Petry told 'Tagesspiegel' newspaper. "It makes sense to consider and readjust your life from time to time. That's the way I see it now after more than four years with the AfD, which has demanded an enormous amount of energy and forced me to wave goodbye to a normal life."

Ms Petry's surprise comments come after a turbulent start to 2017 for the AfD. The party, seen as the main threat to Angela Merkel for most of last year, has plummeted in the opinion polls. Its support was down to just 7pc in a recent poll for the Forsa Institute from a high of 15pc last summer, and some analysts have suggested it could struggle to clear the 5pc threshold to win seats in parliament in September's elections.

Ms Petry's leadership has been rocked by infighting.

Rivals on the extreme right of the party want to force her out, while she has been locked in a struggle to expel Björn Höcke, a senior party figure who has called for Germany to stop atoning for its Nazi past.

At a recent party event, Ms Petry was reduced to tears when she came under sustained attack from a party rival. But commentators have suggested any talk of retirement may be more a veiled threat to her critics than a concession of defeat.

Ms Petry has transformed the AfD from a fringe movement to a political force, and most observers agree it would struggle to win the same support without her.

Telegraph.co.uk

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