BERLIN (Reuters) – Frauke Petry, the co-leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), is leaving the party, two days after a national election made it the third-largest group in parliament, media reported, in a major blow to the party’s credibility.
Several senior AfD members had urged Petry, the highest-profile figure in the AfD’s more moderate wing, to quit the party after she shocked them on Monday by saying she would not sit with the AfD in the Bundestag.
“It’s clear that this step will follow,” Petry was cited as saying in the eastern city of Dresden by several German media, including Spiegel Online and newspaper websites. She did not say when she would quit, they said.
Her spokesman could not immediately confirm the reports.
The anti-immigrant AfD won 12.6 percent of the vote in Germany’s election on Sunday, becoming the first far-right group to win seats in the Bundestag since the 1950s. But Petry has clashed with other senior members, arguing for the party to take a more moderate course.
Petry’s husband, Marcus Pretzell – head of the AfD in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and also an MP in the European Parliament – told Die Welt newspaper he would leave the party on Friday.
“My decision is solely due to my not very optimistic view of the AfD’s development,” Pretzell said.
Helmut Seifen, a lawmaker in NRW’s regional assembly, said another AfD lawmaker there had also announced he would leave the party’s parliamentary group.
On Monday, four of the 17 AfD lawmakers in the regional assembly of the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern announced they would be leaving the party because it had become more radical.
Europe’s far-right groups have a history of infighting among their various factions. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, last week lost her deputy over policy differences.
Alice Weidel, one of the AfD’s top candidates, said she did not expect other lawmakers to quit the party. But she added: “We’ll have to see. The step surprised us all, but there are not yet any trends recognizable in the future parliamentary group.”
Petry, a 42-year-old chemist, was the most recognizable face in the AfD during its swift rise over the past two years. But she said on Monday she could not stand with an “anarchistic party” that lacked a credible plan to govern, and would sit in parliament as an independent.
For months, Petry has urged the AfD to soften its stance and prepare to…