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AfD crisis: Krah withdraws from election campaign and board

Maximilian Krah from the AfD takes part in a session of the European Parliament / Photo: Jean-Francois Badias/AP/dpa/Archivbild
Maximilian Krah from the AfD takes part in a session of the European Parliament / Photo: Jean-Francois Badias/AP/dpa/Archivbild

Maximilian Krah has been a controversial candidate for the AfD for weeks. He has now announced his withdrawal from the party leadership and no longer wants to appear. And this two weeks before the European elections.

With just over two weeks to go before the European elections, the AfD is breaking with its lead candidate Maximilian Krah. A party spokesperson announced on Wednesday that the federal executive had banned Krah from appearing, confirming a report in the Bild newspaper. Krah himself declared on Platform X that he would refrain from making any further campaign appearances and would resign as a member of the federal executive committee. The background to this is Krah's controversial comments on the SS and a dispute that has broken out with the French right-wing party Rassemblement National. However, Krah has already been under pressure for weeks.

It is unclear how the AfD's European election campaign will continue. The election in Germany is on June 9. The number two on the European list, Petr Bystron, is also no longer to appear due to investigations by the public prosecutor's office, according to the party leadership. Both candidates have been in the headlines for weeks due to possible links to pro-Russian networks. According to media reports, public prosecutors are investigating possible money payments to both politicians. In addition, an employee of Krah's was arrested for alleged espionage for China.

CSU Secretary General Martin Huber called on the AfD to persuade Krah to give up his seat in the European Parliament. "It is not enough for Krah to be hidden during the election campaign. He would have to resign from all offices and give up his seat in the European Parliament," he told the German Press Agency. Krah did not initially comment on his future in the European Parliament.

Interview was the bone of contention

The bone of contention was an interview Krah gave to the Italian newspaper "La Repubblica". Krah had said that not all members of the SS were criminals. "I will never say that everyone who wore an SS uniform was automatically a criminal," Krah told the newspaper. When asked whether the SS were war criminals, he replied: "There was certainly a high percentage of criminals, but not all of them were criminals." The National Socialist SS guarded and administered the concentration camps, among other things, and was largely responsible for war crimes. At the Nuremberg trials after the end of the Second World War, it was declared a criminal organization.

After the interview, the Rassemblement National announced that it no longer wanted to work together with the AfD in a parliamentary group in the European Parliament. Both parties previously sat in the right-wing group ID. RN party leader Jordan Bardella explained his party's decision on TF1: "I think that the AfD, with whom we have worked together in the European Parliament for five years, has crossed lines that are red lines for me." After the election, the party will therefore have new allies and will no longer sit alongside the AfD.

"Never lower than in God's hands"

According to a spokesperson, the AfD federal executive discussed Krah's comments and the consequences for cooperation with the Rassemblement National in a conference call on Wednesday morning. As a result, the party spokesperson confirmed the ban on Krah's appearance.

The candidate himself explained on X: "You can never fall lower than in God's hands. I note that factual and differentiated statements by me are being misused as a pretext to harm our party. The last thing we need at the moment is a debate about me. The AfD must maintain its unity. For this reason, I will refrain from further election campaign appearances with immediate effect and resign as a member of the federal executive committee."

Krah comes from the Saxon AfD state association. He is considered a confidant of the Thuringian AfD state leader Björn Höcke. The AfD leadership around federal chairmen Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla had already distanced themselves from Krah in recent weeks.

According to media reports, public prosecutors are investigating Krah for possible Chinese payments. According to critical party colleagues, the Saxon AfD politician has repeatedly attracted attention in the past with pro-Chinese statements and activities. The so-called preliminary investigation proceedings in the Krahs case are being conducted by the Dresden public prosecutor's office, while similar proceedings are being conducted in Munich in the Bystrons case. Both politicians have assured the AfD leadership that they have not taken any money.

After a crisis meeting with Weidel and Chrupalla, Krah had already canceled his participation in the AfD's election campaign kick-off on 27 April in Donaueschingen. However, he later resumed his appearances.

Le Pen and Meloni keep their distance - Salvini apparently too

Some right-wing parties in Europe have been at odds with the AfD for months. Following the revelations by media outlet Correctiv about a meeting of right-wing extremists in Potsdam in January, Marine Le Pen voiced clear criticism. There was a crisis meeting with Weidel.

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni from the ultra-right Fratelli d'Italia distanced herself from the AfD at the beginning of the year. She spoke of "irreconcilable differences" and referred at the time in particular to the AfD's relations with Russia. However, the Fratelli do not belong to the ID in Europe, but to the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) party.

Italy's partner in the ID is Matteo Salvini's right-wing Lega. The latter did not initially comment on Krah's latest statements. However, the Italian news agency Ansa quoted the Lega delegation in the European Parliament on Tuesday evening as saying: "As always, Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen are perfectly aligned and in agreement."

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