German populist anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD) was caught in a new storm Thursday after it emerged that a recently elected Berlin deputy called refugees "disgusting worms" while another key member reportedly sold Nazi paraphernalia.
AfD candidate Kay Nerstheimer was elected on Sunday to Berlin's state parliament, but quickly came under pressure over controversial posts he made on Facebook as well as his background as a former member of the far-right German Defense League. After labelling Syrian refugees "disgusting worms" last year, he said asylum seekers were "parasites that are feeding off the German people," national media reported. Public outrage over the offensive statements forced the Berlin chapter of the AfD to distance itself from Nerstheimer, who had garnered one in four votes in the capital's suburban electoral district of Lichtenberg 1. The party decided to drop Nerstheimer from its parliamentary group, but he would still be able to keep his seat in Berlin's parliament as an independent deputy, said Ronald Glaeser, spokesman for AfD's Berlin chapter.
The AfD was founded three years ago as an anti-euro party but has since campaigned on an anti-migrant and anti-Islam stance. It rejects being labelled as an extremist or neo-Nazi party, but its members have been caught out for offensive speech on several occasions. The party is now represented on the opposition benches of 10 of Germany's 16 state assemblies, and is eyeing seats in national parliament when the country holds general elections next year.