Angela Merkel heckled during speech in German Bundestag
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The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is one of several parties in the running for the September 26 election. Angela Merkel has said she will stand down as German Chancellor this year and will not seek re-election. Her 16-year tenure as Germany’s leader has seen her help steer the priorities of the EU, including with Germany’s presidency of the bloc last year. Armin Laschet, her hopeful successor, from Ms Merkel’s own centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, is trailing in the polls.
Mr Laschet, who is pro-EU, has been hit by a string of controversies in recent months, including being filmed laughing during a speech by the president of Germany in a town that had been devastated by this year’s floods.
The CDU man has slipped behind the frontrunner, Olaf Scholz of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).
However, Mr Scholz, Germany’s current Vice Chancellor, has been attacked by some in the CDU over his stance on Europe.
His financial plans for the EU have been criticised, including that he wants to create a “soft euro” through a “debt-and-transfer union”.
As the pro-EU parties engage in squabbling, the AfD, Germany’s largest opposition party, wants to leave the 27-nation bloc altogether.
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At the party’s conference in April of this year, delegates approved its manifesto, which includes pulling Germany out of the EU.
German state-owned broadcaster Deutsche Welle spoke to the members present at the event.
In an unearthed report, it quoted one as saying: “If Germany is to live, the EU must die.”
Founded in 2013, in opposition to the euro, the AfD said at its conference in Dresden that Germany’s withdrawal from the EU – often dubbed Dexit – is “necessary”
However, its members have also called for the creation of a “new European community of economies and interests”.
The AfD has taken inspiration from Britain’s own withdrawal from the EU, and was expressing anti-Brussels sentiment before Dexit became an official policy.
Back in 2019, the AfD’s spokesperson Jörg Meuthen was already suggesting the party would pursue Dexit.
He said: “The EU has not learned any lessons from Brexit.
“Continuing dictation by Brussels, curtailment of elementary national freedoms, senseless and endless cost driving.”
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The party’s leader in the state of Thuringia, Björn Höcke, was even stronger in his tone last year as he encouraged his fellow members to come around to the idea of Dexit.
The politician spoke during a speech after the UK left the EU in January last year.
He said: “The majority of the German people also want to get out of EU slavery.”
The AfD has also campaigned on an anti-immigration platform.
The party’s slogan for this year’s elections, “Germany, but normal”, has been seen by some as a thinly-veiled anti-migrant message.
The AfD views Islam as a threat to German culture and has demanded stronger border measures in Europe such as fences.
The party’s response to COVID-19 has also drawn attention, with some politicians making headlines for not following Germany’s health measures.
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