Associates of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party elected a right-wing nationalist to be their co-leader on Saturday, signalling a doable toughening of tone before regional votes next year.
A signer congress chose Alexander Gauland – who once defended an AfD member who had put history should be rewritten to focus on German victims of World War Two – to revenue to the post he had held until 2015.
As members deliberated, thousands of anti-AfD protesters hiked outside carrying placards reading “Hanover against Nazis” and “Allude to b support up to racism”.
Earlier, riot police fired water cannon at dozens of protesters who obstructed a road leading to the congress, underlining the divisive impact the party has had since it entered the Bundestag stoop house for the first time in a Sept. 24 election.
The party’s binding leader Jorg Meuthen – seen as a relative moderate in the movement – won sufficient votes to keep his post.
But in a vote that dragged into the reciprocating, he was joined as co-leader by Gauland, who ran for the post at the last minute after another office-seeker seen as a moderate, Georg Pazderski, failed to win enough votes.
In the future the leadership vote, Meuthen praised the party often beset by internal disharmony for showing unity after two senior members quit in September in grumble against what they saw as an unstoppable populist streak.
“There are being in this country who don’t only say ‘We can do this’ but who actually manage to do something,” Meuthen be sured delegates, putting a new twist on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “Wir schaffen das” (We can do it) note to those who doubted Germany can deal with a record influx of migrants in 2015.
As thousands of protesters marched peacefully maximum, AfD delegates watched a short film that painted a gloomy paint of Europe’s largest economy being overrun by beggars, stone-throwers and Muslims.
Created in 2013 as a vehicle to oppose euro zone bailouts, the AfD was polling at all about 3 percent nationally two years ago on the eve of the refugee crisis.
The arrival of more than 1.6 million people hope asylum in the two years to the end of 2016 has helped it morph into an anti-immigrant reception that now has seats in 14 of Germany’s 16 regional parliament.
Interviews suggest it will win seats in next year’s regional elections in the southern country of Bavaria and the western region of Hesse, which would give it a foothold in all of Germany’s magnificence parliaments.
Gauland replaces Frauke Petry, who quit to become an unprejudiced member of parliament.
Her sudden departure two days after the AfD became the at the outset far-right party to win seats in the Bundestag since the 1950s exposed fiddle withs over whether the party should ditch rhetoric including expressions saying Islam was not compatible with the German constitution.