Inside Germany's rightwing politics
The populist Alternative for Germany party looks set to enter the Bundestag for the first time in this month's national elections. The FT's Guy Chazan investigates the tensions at the heart of the controversial rightwing group.
Filmed by Steve Ager. Produced by Seb Morton-Clark.
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Michael Seifert is a laid-back kind of guy.
I used to play the drums. When-- long hair and he used to smoke these big joints.
A Bob Dylan fan and retired radio journalist, he's still nostalgic for the 60s. He's also a member of a German right wing party, that in recent years has sent shock waves through the country's political system.
He joined the Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, in 2013 in protest of the eurozone bailout of Greece. Now a local councillor, he's also a strong supporter of the AfD's policy on immigration. It was the only party in Germany that strongly opposed Angela Merkel's decision to open the country's borders to refugees. The AfD believes it was wrong to let so many undocumented aliens into the country.
In Germany, if you go fishing without a licence you're in trouble, you have to pay a fine. But on the other hand, you'll get hundreds of thousands of people in without registering them, that's completely idiotic in a way.
Mr. Seifert is not alone. The AfD became wildly popular during the refugee crisis. Attracting millions of voters disillusioned by Germany's established parties. This month, it is expected to make its biggest ever political breakthrough.
And it's here in the Bundestag, the seat of German democracy, that the AfD is likely to gain seats in the country's election. That is, if it doesn't implode first. In recent months, the AfD has been racked by internal power struggles and political controversies.
The iconic Holocaust Memorial here in Berlin was at the centre of one such scandal that rocked the party in January. When AfD leader Bjorn Hocke said, Germany should stop atoning for its Nazi past. And directly criticised the monument.
The AfD leadership is now trying to expel him. But many in the party agree that Germany should stop apologising for its past.
His views were echoed at an AfD town hall in the sleepy town of [GERMAN], just a few months before national elections.
But already, Mr. Hocke's speech has done lasting damage to the AfD's image.
AfD politicians say it's true the party has shifted a bit. It's less focused on the euro, Greek bailouts, and knocking the EU, and is more openly anti-immigration. But they also deny that the party has shifted decisively to the right.
The views of the AfD seemed to strike a chord in [GERMAN].
Those in government, however, seem less concerned with the advances the party has made.
The Hocke controversy also continues to reverberate. More people are turning away from the party, fearing it's shifted too far to the right.
That's a concern for moderates like Micheal Seifert.
We must take a stand against right wing extremism in this party. I don't say this only from, like, a tactical point of view, but I feel this deeply. I don't want anything to do with nationalistic or right wing extremists or anti-semites. I find that very horrible.
The AfD's leaders insist the party is here to stay. But if Michael Siefert and those like him want to assure its future, they'll be hoping the scandals and infighting will finally become a thing of the past.