AfD elects far-right co-leader
German police have used water cannon to disperse protesters who blocked access to the anti-immigrant the Alternative for Germany (AFD) conference in Hannover as it selected a far-right co-leader.
The protests delayed the start of the meeting by around an hour and 10 protesters were temporarily detained.
Several officers were injured, including one who was struck on the hand by a bottle, while a demonstrator who chained himself to a fence suffered a broken leg.
The party elected right-wing nationalist Alexander Gauland (pictured) as co-leader, signalling a possible toughening of its positioning before regional elections next year.
He opposed the expulsion of an AfD colleague, Björn Höcke, who had said history should be rewritten to focus on German victims of the Second World War.
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters marched outside carrying placards reading “Hanover against Nazis” and “Stand up to racism”.
“No one gets to dictate from on high what it means to be German,” said Paula Rahaus, a spokeswoman for the Greens, one of the group’s behind the protest. “We want to stop them from spreading their antisocial politics.”
Earlier, riot police fired water cannon in subzero conditions at protesters who blocked a road leading to the event.
The existing leader Jorg Meuthen, who is seen as relatively moderate, won enough votes to keep his post.
But he was joined as co-leader by Gauland, who ran at short notice when a more moderate candidate, Georg Pazderski, failed to win enough votes.
Using slogans such as “Bikinis not burqas”, “Stop Islamisation” and “Merkel must go”, the AfD, which was only founded in 2013, won its first seats and came third in the September 24 general election.
It won 12.6 per cent of the vote in September and took 94 of the 709 Bundestag seats.
Founded to oppose eurozone bailouts, the AfD was polling at around 3 per cent nationally before the 2015 refugee crisis.
It has since shifted into an anti-immigrant party that has seats in 14 of the nation’s 16 regional parliaments.
Next year the AfD will be looking to win seats in Bavaria and the western region of Hesse, which would give it representation in every state parliament.
Immediately after the September election, co-leader Frauke Petry resigned, claiming there was a “disagreement over content” and that she was unhappy with the extremist tone.
The sidelining of Pazderski, a former ally of Petry, weakens a section of the party which is keen to manoeuvre its parliamentarians into a position where they could enter a coalition government.
Alexander Gauland. Picture credit: Wikimedia