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Co-leader quits Germany’s far-right AfD party

The co-leader of Germany's anti-immigrant AfD party, Joerg Meuthen, announced Friday he was quitting the party, accusing it of drifting too far to the right and displaying "totalitarian" leanings.

Dr. Jörg Meuthen
Prof. Dr. Jörg Meuthen, former co-leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AfD - Alternative für Deutschland | Alternative für Deutschland

“The party’s heart beats very far to the right today,” the 60-year-old told broadcaster ARD in an interview, saying he had failed to find middle ground with the party’s extremist faction.

Meuthen, seen as one of the more moderate voices in the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), already said late last year that he would give up his role as the party’s federal spokesman, following a disappointing election result and bitter internal divisions.

But he has now decided to leave the party altogether.

Meuthen, AfD co-leader since 2015, has long been locked in a power struggle with heavyweight party hardliners, including co-leader Tino Chrupalla, parliamentary leader Alice Weidel and the head of the AfD in Thuringia state, Bjoern Höcke.

“They will be really happy that Meuthen is finally gone,” Meuthen told ARD. “They worked on that for a long time.”

Some in the AfD have become far removed from “the basic order of freedom and democracy”, Meuthen went on, and showed “clear totalitarian leanings”.

Meuthen however said he would stay on as a member of the European Parliament.

Founded in 2013 as a eurosceptic outfit, the AfD seized on popular anger over an influx of refugees in 2015-2016 to reinvent itself as an anti-immigrant, anti-Islam party.

It has repeatedly courted controversy by urging Germans to stop atoning for World War II atrocities. Höcke once called for a “180 degree reversal” of the country’s remembrance culture.

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The AfD stunned the political establishment when it secured almost 13 percent of the vote in the 2017 general election, entering parliament for the first time.

But support for the party slipped to around 10 percent in last year’s election, as the country reeled from the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about migration waned.

The AfD has since sought to court critics of the government’s coronavirus measures, with leading figures joining demonstrations that have attracted a mix of neo-Nazis, anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists.

AfD lawmakers have been admonished in parliament for not wearing their face masks properly and the party is a vocal opponent of government plans to introduce a vaccine mandate.

Meuthen said something “cult-like” had developed around the AfD’s coronavirus attitudes.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

It's official - people in Germany will get cheap public transport for three months this summer after the €9 ticket was approved.

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

As part of a host of energy relief measures to cushion the cost of living crisis, the German government is offering cheap public transport for the months of June, July and August. 

Monthly tickets will be available at a price of €9 (or €27 for all three months) and they will allow people to use all buses, trains and trams in local and regional transport throughout the country.

So even if people buy the ticket in Munich, they will also be able to use local and regional buses, trains and trams elsewhere in Germany, whether it’s Hamburg or Cologne. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

The ticket will not be valid, however, on long-distance transport such as ICE trains or Flixbus.

The offer was put together by the coalition government – made of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP.

The Bundestag voted for the initiative on Thursday, agreeing to give federal states a subsidy of €2.5 billion to fund the project. 

And on Friday, the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament that represents the states – gave the green light to the ticket, paving the way for it to begin on June 1st. 

States had wanted an extra €1.5 billion funding boost to deal with lost revenue, however it would have been hugely controversial if they had blocked it.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block the €9 ticket in the Bundesrat

During a debate on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the €9 project was “already a success”.

“All of Germany is talking about local public transport,” he said, adding that it is also being viewed with interest abroad. 

READ ALSO: ‘Fantastic’: Your verdict on Germany’s €9 ticket

The Left party (Die Linke) voted in favour of the €9 ticket, but leader Bernd Riexinger said he thought the plan didn’t go far enough. “Three months is simply too little,” he said.

The opposition, however, slammed the move. Christian Democrat Michael Donth called it an “expensive experiment”.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn will offer the ticket for sale as early as Monday. Local public transport providers across the country are also preparing their ticket machines for the initiative. It will also be available in travel centres.

People with subscriptions to local transport will automatically benefit from the offer. 

In some regions, such as Stuttgart and Freiburg, the ticket is already available for purchase.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin

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