Far-right alliance in European Parliament in crisis

Less than three weeks before the EU elections, the far-right in Europe appears to be in crisis. France's National Rally said on Tuesday it would not sit alongside German party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in the next European Parliament. Whether this means National Rally plans to leave the Identity and Democracy (ID) group or will seek to have AfD expelled remains unclear. 

National Rally, Marine Le Pen’s party, does not want to be in the same parliamentary group as Germany’s AfD after the 9 June elections. Currently, both far-right parties work together in the ID group, which consists of 59 members, making it the sixth-largest group in the parliament.

ID was expected to garner strong support in the elections, but it now appears to be in crisis as the cooperation between two of its most important parties is on the verge of breaking down.

Underlying the decision is a controversial interview by the AfD lead candidate, Maximilian Krah, in the Italian daily La Repubblica, in which he said he would “never say that anyone who wore an SS uniform was automatically a criminal". Krah was referring to German novelist Günter Grass, who admitted late in his life to having been a member of the Waffen-SS as a teenager. 

Trivialisation of atrocities

The statement is very ill-timed. In November, the first cracks in the relationship between the two parties appeared when AfD took part in a secret meeting of extremist parties in the German city of Potsdam on the topic of immigration, specifically the mass expulsion of immigrants.

The meeting was much criticised by France’s National Rally, with Le Pen threatening to end the cooperation. AfD is also burdened by a Chinese espionage scandal and is thought to have links to Russia, adding to National Rally's frustrations. ​ 

Indeed, Le Pen's party has spent years trying to lure mainstream voters by staying away from its far-right past. With elections just around the corner, it cannot afford to be dragged into extreme thought, such as the trivialising of the Nazi era and its atrocities. National Rally's decision in any case puts pressure on AfD. The party is expected to meet on Wednesday and will consider the situation, as well as Krah's position as lead candidate. 

Belgium's far-right Vlaams Belang, which is also part of ID, has said it is not immediately concerned. “Which coalitions will be formed is for after the elections. We'll see. European cooperation is for afterwards. Flanders first.”


Lead candidate for Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany party in the European election Maximilian Krah speaks during a campaign event © PHOTO JENS SCHLUETER / AFP

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