Infighting hits Germany's hard-right AfD

Frauke Petry, co-chairwoman of the AfD, right, with top candidates Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel in Berlin, Germany. (AP)
Updated 25 September 2017
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Infighting hits Germany's hard-right AfD

BERLIN: The nationalist Alternative for Germany was hit by party infighting on Monday, just hours after winning its first seats in Parliament, with its co-chief Frauke Petry declaring that she will not join its Bundestag group.
Citing “dissent” with more hard-line colleagues, Petry dropped her bombshell at a morning party press conference, catching other key AfD figures by surprise as she abruptly left the room.
The spectacle played out before the media put the spotlight on the tug-of-war within the party between radical and more moderate forces at the top, and raised questions on how far right it planned to position itself.
Although its beginnings as an anti-euro party were rooted in populism, the AfD’s rhetoric veered further right in the run-up to Sunday’s elections.
Key members challenged Germany’s culture of atonement over World War II and the slaughter of six million Jews in the Holocaust.
It also rolled out provocative posters declaring “Burkas? We prefer bikinis” and “New Germans? Let’s make them ourselves,” featuring a heavily pregnant white woman, to push its Islamophobic and anti-migrant campaign.
Outraged mainstream politicians have heaped on criticism, including Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel who had labelled leaders of the party “real Nazis.”
But even Petry herself had openly criticized one of her party’s two key candidates Alexander Gauland over his claim that Germany should be proud of its war veterans, saying that would lead voters to shun the party.
On Monday, seated next to Gauland, she declared that “there is dissent in the AfD over the issues.”
“I decided after careful reflection that I will not sit with the (AfD) parliamentary group” in the Bundestag, said Petry who added she will serve as an independent MP.
Hours later, four AfD local MPs said they were leaving party ranks and forming their own group in the state parliament of Mecklenburg-Pomerania.
The open squabbling put a damper on the party’s success, and pointed to a potentially rocky future for the party in Parliament.
Alice Weidel, another top AfD candidate in the election, revealed that Petry had not spoken to either her nor Gauland “for months” even though the duo were the leading faces of the AfD’s campaign.
For now, Weidel and Gauland appear to have prevailed, as they basked in the fact that the party has become Germany’s third biggest political force with 12.6 percent of the vote.
It even came in just on top of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union in the eastern state of Saxony, home of the anti-Islam PEGIDA protest movement, as it lured away voters angry with the arrival in Germany of more than a million asylum seekers since 2015.
Gauland, who had also come under fire from Petry over his vow to “go after” Merkel and her government, stood firm on his tone.
“No one would be surprised in the British parliament if someone said they would go after the government,” he said, adding that “of course one must go after a government, go after it in a parliamentary debate.”
Gauland also minced no words about his party’s anti-migrant platform, declaring that “we will get our country back.”
“I don’t want to lose Germany to an invasion of foreign people from foreign cultures,” he vowed.
Reiterating his opposition to double nationality, Gauland took aim at ethnic Turks in Germany, saying he had “little understanding” for those who have German citizenship but who still voted in favor of a referendum in Turkey to increase President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.
“On that, one can at least ask the question whether these people have really arrived in this country and whether they are really part of the German society,” he said.
Analysts said breaching such taboos over German identity could well become the norm in the Bundestag with dozens of AfD MPs seated on the opposition benches.
But the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung cautioned against just dismissing the AfD as extremists.
“Nazi smears against the AfD are cheap — dealing with them in parliament will require a great deal more energy and imagination,” it said.
“The other parties must distance themselves from the AfD while endeavuring from day one to win back voters from the AfD,” it said, adding that “this is a serious test for German democracy.”


Wife of former Malaysian PM Najib to be questioned by anti-corruption agency

Updated 25 September 2018
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Wife of former Malaysian PM Najib to be questioned by anti-corruption agency

  • Rosmah was first questioned in June in connection with the investigation
  • A source familiar with the investigation said Rosmah would be questioned in connection with the 1MDB probe

KUALA LUMPUR: Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, was summoned on Tuesday for questioning by the anti-graft agency in its multi-billion dollar corruption probe at state fund 1MDB.
It was the second time Rosmah, 66, has been called in by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) since the shock defeat of Najib in the May general election.
Rosmah was first questioned in June in connection with the investigation, which is looking into allegations of corruption and misappropriation in state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Her husband has pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, abuse of power and criminal breach of trust.
The former first lady was served with a notice on Tuesday afternoon to appear before MACC the next day, her lawyer K.Kumaraendran said, adding that she was asked to assist with investigations under the anti-money laundering act.
A source familiar with the investigation said Rosmah would be questioned in connection with the 1MDB probe.
After filing fresh charges against Najib last week, Azam Baki, the deputy commissioner of the anti-graft agency, said more charges could be brought against individuals over 1MDB.
When asked if Rosmah could face charges, he said: “I’m not denying that.”
Rosmah’s penchant for designer handbags, watches and jewelry raised eyebrows in Malaysia, with opponents asking how she was able to afford the luxury items on her husband’s government salary.
She has drawn comparisons to Imelda Marcos, who left behind more than 1,200 pairs of shoes when her husband Ferdinand Marcos was ousted as president of the Philippines in 1986.
Najib and Rosmah have both been barred from leaving the country since the former’s election defeat, and their home and other properties linked to them have been searched by the police as part of the 1MDB investigations.
The haul seized from the properties included 567 handbags, 423 watches and 12,000 pieces of jewelry.
Najib has said most of the seized items were gifts given to his wife and daughter and had nothing to do with 1MDB.
The US Department of Justice has alleged more than $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB and that about $680 million ended up in Najib’s personal bank account. Najib has denied any wrongdoing.