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Germany's Far-Right Party Picks Leaders Ahead Of September Elections


While running for president of France, far-right leader Marine Le Pen has kept an eye on Germany. That country holds its own big election this year. One contender was a woman labeled Germany's own Marine Le Pen. Even Marine Le Pen called her that. Now, she's dropped out. Here's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Frauke Petry’s right wing Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, has in recent years won legislative seats in every German state that held elections. Now, the party hopes to enter the German national Parliament.


FRAUKE PETRY: (Speaking German).

NELSON: So it came as a shock when she announced in a video that she was dropping out of the German parliamentary race after trying and failing to get her party to moderate its anti-Muslim and euro-skeptic stance. Nevertheless, she and her main nemesis, party co-founder Alexander Gauland, made a show of unity at the AfD convention in Cologne this past weekend.


ALEXANDER GAULAND: (Speaking German).

NELSON: "We need Frauke Petry," Gauland said, before kissing her hand. AfD's new lead candidate is Alice Weidel...


ALICE WEIDEL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: ...An economist who looks and sounds a lot like Petry with the same pixie haircut, slender build and hot temper. But she isn't well known like Petry, even within their party. Gauland, who announced he would be spearheading the campaign alongside Weidel, is expected to keep the new candidate under his thumb.

Meanwhile, Petry remains their party's co-chair. That kind of triangle would not end well for any other German political party, says Justus Bender, author and journalist with the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.

JUSTUS BENDER: Nothing seems to hurt this party. I mean, they have done all sorts of things which would actually mean defeat for anyone else. And it's sort of a nice comparison you could make to Donald Trump, who said he could shoot somebody in the middle of Manhattan and he wouldn't be hurt by it. And it's the same with the AfD.

NELSON: Bender says if the party manages to keep it together, it could well become the first right wing faction to enter the German Parliament since the end of World War II. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

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