Germany: far right holds controversial congress

In the midst of a pandemic, supporters of the German far right have gathered in North Rhine-Westphalia for a congress that makes people talk.

Alexander Gauland, present in Kalkar for the AfD (Alternative for Germany) congress, caused an uproar by insulting deputies. He apologized.

KEYSTONE

Some 600 delegates from the far-right German party, which shows its solidarity with the movement of opponents to wearing masks, began a controversial congress on Saturday as Germany struggles to fight the second wave of the virus.

The co-president of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) Tino Chrupalla denounced from the outset “the state of emergency policy” led by Angela Merkel’s government against the coronavirus.

“Lives are shattered, a wave of bankruptcies is already underway (…) A lot of people are losing their jobs,” he said.

This gathering is held until Sunday in Kalkar, North Rhine-Westphalia, on the site of a former nuclear power plant never entered into service, transformed into a leisure park and hotel complex.

The leader of the first German opposition party urged delegates to scrupulously observe the respect of barrier gestures and the wearing of protective masks, a sine qua non for the continuation of the rally.

The AfD has set up its own security service to ensure that the instructions are applied in the building, which brings together some 800 people, party employees and journalists included.

According to the police, about 500 people demonstrated peacefully against the holding of the congress at the call of a collective “Stand up against racism” made up of NGOs, parties and unions.

Potential «Hot spot»

The organization of such an event is provoking strong criticism as Germany has just decided to drastically reduce contacts in the face of the spread of the pandemic.

The mayor of Kalkar Britta Schulz denounced an “irresponsible” decision on the part of the AfD, fearing the emergence of a new “hot spot” of infection with the virus.

The authorities, however, had to give their approval because the congress, which should lead to the election of various members of the party leadership, falls under the category of exceptions provided for in the region.

Angela Merkel’s conservative party, which is due to elect a new leader and potential candidate for chancellery, has for its part, given the health crisis, given up holding its own congress scheduled for early December.

And the environmental party organized its via video conference last weekend. Germany exceeded one million cases of coronavirus on Friday since the start of the pandemic, and recorded nearly 16,000 deaths, according to data from the Robert Koch health watch institute.

The country has recently tightened its restrictive measures, facing a number of daily infections still “far too high”, according to the Chancellor.

“War propaganda”

The AfD, which has built its success by surfing on the fears of the Germans about migrants arriving in the hundreds of thousands in Germany from 2015, has positioned itself in recent weeks alongside the protest movement against anti-pandemic restrictions .

One of its leaders, Alexander Gauland, recently accused the executive of using “war propaganda” to impose “its corona dictatorship”.

And members of the AfD regularly march alongside anti-mask activists. During the last demonstration in Berlin, peppered with violence, the police used a water cannon.

Protesters, invited by two members of the AfD in the building of the Chamber of Deputies, even arrested and insulted elected officials, including the Minister of the Economy Peter Altmaier. The incident sparked an uproar and forced Alexander Gauland to apologize on behalf of the AfD.

One year before the legislative elections, the far right is more weakened than ever by internal dissension. In a survey by the Forsa institute released on Saturday, she is credited with only 7% of voting intentions, her worst score since July 2017 and far from the 15% collected at the height of the migration crisis.

Angela Merkel, who is due to complete her fourth and last term next year, for her part achieved popularity records, the majority of Germans hailing her management of the health crisis.

(AFP/NXP)

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