German far-right AfD split over France's Le Pen meeting
BERLINJan 13, 2017 - 12:00 am GMT+3
Jan 13, 2017 12:00 am
A planned meeting between the leader of Germany's anti-immigration AfD party and France's far-right chief Marine Le Pen has sparked open dissent within the German party.
Two key AfD members, Georg Pazderski and Alexander Gauland, contested the decision by the party's co-chief Frauke Petry to join the Jan. 21 event in the western German city of Koblenz. The conference is set to gather the main players in Europe's far-right circle, including anti-Islam Dutch MP Geert Wilders and Italy's Matteo Salvini of the Northern League.
But Pazderski told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "I find that the National Front does not suit us at all." "The FN is a socialist party. Personally I have reservations," he said.
While both parties have hit out against the arrival of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers to Europe, they differ on economic policies. Le Pen's party advocates a protectionist line, while the AfD, although also anti-euro, has liberal economic leanings.
The German party backs the privatization of some state services and views competitive markets as "preferable to state intervention".
The dissenters accused Petry of not waiting for party top ranks to give their opinion on the meeting before she went public with the plan to join in.
Petry had announced her participation through Twitter on Monday evening, hours after she sent an email to the party's executives.
Ludovic de Danne, an advisor to Petry, was quoted by Paris newspaper Le Figaro as describing the meeting as a "European counter-summit." It will mark Petry's first meeting with National Front head Le Pen, with both women expected to discuss the overlap in their parties' policies, de Danne said, according to the report.
The latest discord underlined a power struggle and ideological tussle within the AfD, with some seeking to tug the party further to the right while others, like co-leader Joerg Meuthen, are striking a more moderate line.
Petry refused to engage in "a debate on labels" when asked last year how close her party was to France's FN or Austria's Freedom Party.
Meuthen, however, has distanced the AfD from the FN, saying Le Pen's group was a "party that has fundamentally nationalist and socialist ideas, which are alien to our party."
The AfD, which opposes Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal refugee policy, has enjoyed a surge in support in a series of state elections over the past year. Ahead of general elections which are likely to be held in September, the party is polling at around 15 percent.