A leader of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) has backtracked on comments calling for the far-right party to consider the possibility of splitting.
Co-Chairman Joerg Meuthen made the comments last week amid rising controversy over a strongly nationalist faction within the party called the "Wing," led by the AfD leader in the state of Thuringia, Bjoern Hoecke.
Germany's domestic intelligence agency launched an investigation into the Wing in March, asserting that it has a "right-wing extremist tendency" and opposes the free democratic order. The AfD's leadership has called for the group to dissolve itself.
A resolution unanimously adopted by the AfD federal board on Monday said Meuthen admitted making "a big mistake" with his comments and stated that he would "not carry forward the discussion." The federal board said it "welcomes this clarification, affirms the unity of the party and opposes any attempt to jeopardize it."
Founded in 2013 as a protest party against the euro single currency, the AfD has grown and shifted further right, scooping up a significant number of votes from those unhappy with the government's migration policy. It is now the largest opposition group in the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament. But the party has also come under fire for fueling anti-immigration sentiment amid several right-wing extremist attacks in Germany in recent months.
Support for the AfD has also dwindled with the spread of the coronavirus, as voters rally to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives. An opinion poll in late March showed the party on 9%, two points down from the previous week and almost four down on its 2017 federal election performance.
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