AfD founder ousted after party conference putsch

New party leadership refuses to let Bernd Lucke address conference as he is escorted from hall by security guards

Alternative für Deutschland’s  (AfD) new leader  Frauke Petry smiles  at the party congress in Essen, western Germany, at the weekend.  Photograph: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

Alternative für Deutschland’s (AfD) new leader Frauke Petry smiles at the party congress in Essen, western Germany, at the weekend. Photograph: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

 

The Eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is facing a split after a weekend putsch saw Prof Bernd Lucke, the party’s founder, ousted by a hard-right national conservative rival. Frauke Petry (40), the head of the AfD in Saxony, attracted 60 per cent in a leadership vote and, amid tumultuous scenes, vowed to broaden the party’s focus to immigration and EU issues.

An emotional Prof Lucke said yesterday he was likely to quit the party he founded three years ago, warning that Ms Petry wanted to abandon the AfD’s original bailout-critical focus to reshape the party as a German version of Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National in France.

“What cannot happen is that this party tries to whip up cheap sentiment,” Prof Lucke added. “I don’t think this party has a chance to be a bourgeois force of change in Germany any more, not with the atmosphere at this party conference.”

Amid scuffles and shouts of “Lucke out!”, the new party leadership refused to let Prof Lucke address the conference and he was escorted from the hall by security guards.

After narrowly missing out on the Bundestag in 2013, the party won seats in five state parliaments and the European Parliament and is polling at about 5 per cent. The victorious Ms Petry vowed to end months of feuding and insisted the AfD had great political potential beyond the euro focus.

She has dismissed criticism that she was flirting with hard- right forces and neo-Nazi voters. Under her leadership she said the AfD would tackle all issues of concern to citizens “without taboos”.

Delegates cheered when Ms Petry said Germany faced “massive integration problems linked to the fact that a religion like Islam conveys a vision of the state that is totally foreign to that which we know in Europe”.

She also signalled that the AfD would open itself to supporters of Pegida, which has staged huge weekly demonstrations in Dresden against the “Islamisation of the west”.

The AfD is already a staunch critic of bailouts and further aid to Greece but new deputy leader Beatrix von Storch MEP suggested the party would take a tougher line in future, demanding an end of sovereignty transfers to Brussels.

“If we cannot stop this threat, we have to threaten with our withdrawal from the EU,” said Ms von Storch said. “That’s what David Cameron is doing to renegotiate the treaties.”