German far-right leader urges conservatives to break down 'firewall' against his party

German far-right leader urges conservatives to break down ‘firewall’ against his party

BERLIN — A leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany on Friday urged members of the country’s main opposition conservative bloc to break down a “firewall” meant to isolate his party, which is at record levels in polls.

The 10-year-old Alternative for Germany, or AfD, gathered in the eastern city of Magdeburg for a convention stretching over the next two weekends at which it plans to choose candidates and set its policy platform for next June’s European Parliament election.

Recent polls put support for AfD at 19-22%, behind only the main conservative opposition bloc. Earlier this week, the latter’s main leader, Friedrich Merz, insisted that there would be no cooperation even at the local level between his Christian Democratic Union and AfD, after his apparent suggestion that they might work together prompted criticism from fellow conservatives.

AfD co-leader Tino Chrupalla told delegates that “polls aren’t results” and they should view recent surveys with “humility.” But he pointed to his party’s prospects of winning three state elections in eastern regions next year, and said that “we could take on government responsibility.”

The first AfD candidates recently won elections in eastern Germany to lead a county administration and become the full-time mayor of a municipality.

Chrupalla mocked Merz, who recently described his conservative bloc as an “alternative for Germany with substance.” He said that “we are the original,” and argued that Merz has recognized “it was wrong to put up a firewall against our party.”

“I call on all patriots in the CDU: tear down this … wall,” he said.

Chrupalla spent large parts of his speech assailing the environmentalist Green party, part of the center-left coalition of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and also underlined his party’s opposition to weapons deliveries to Ukraine and sanctions against Russia. He asserted that today’s European Union is “responsible for a disastrous migration policy, with sanctions policies that are harmful to the economy.”

The AfD convention will, probably several days in, address the party’s position on the EU and whether Germany should leave. The party’s other co-leader, Alice Weidel, told ZDF television Friday that it favors a dismantling of EU areas of responsibility, but didn’t specify whether the bloc should be dissolved.

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