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Germany’s anti-immigrant party announces September election line-up

News 23 Apr 2017

left right Top candidates for the German elections Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland of Germany's anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AFD) during an AFD party congress in Cologne Germany, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay 1/5 left right Party leaders Frauke Petry and Joerg Meuthen of Germany's anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AFD) during an AFD party congress in Cologne Germany, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay 2/5 left right Delegates vote during a party congress of Germany's anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AFD) in Cologne Germany, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay 3/5 left right Alexander Gauland of Germany's anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AFD) kisses the hand of party chairwoman Frauke Petry as Joerg Meuthen looks on during an AFD party congress in Cologne Germany, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay 4/5 left right Alice Weidel of Germany's anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AFD) during an AFD party congress in Cologne Germany, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay 5/5

COLOGNE, Germany The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party on Sunday voted for 76-year-old publicist Alexander Gauland and 38-year-old economist Alice Weidel to jointly lead its campaign for the country's September national election.

A majority of AfD delegates backed the two candidates at a congress in Cologne. The right-wing AfD is seeking to win seats in the national parliament for the first time.

The vote followed a surprise announcement on Wednesday by co-leader Frauke Petry, the party's public face, that she would not lead the AfD's election campaign. This could boost mainstream parties and lessen the threat the right-wing AfD poses to Chancellor Angela Merkel's bid for a fourth term.

The latest polls put the AfD on 8 to 10 percent – around a third lower than at the end of last year but still above the 5 percent threshold for entering the Bundestag lower house of parliament.

But the party, which has lurched to the right since being founded as an anti-euro party in 2013, is treated as a pariah by established political parties, which refuse to work with it.

Gauland is widely seen a supporter of senior AfD member Bjoern Hoecke, who caused outrage in January by calling Berlin's Holocaust Memorial a "monument of shame" and demanding a "180 degree turnaround" in Germany's attempts to atone for Nazi crimes.

Weidel, a little-known figure in the AfD who is seen as a more moderate voice, is in favor of Hoecke being expelled. She has sought to establish herself as a financial and economy expert in the party.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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