BERLIN (Reuters) - Almost all of Germany’s main parties said they would reject the far-fight AfD movement’s choice for parliamentary vice-president, highlighting its political isolation despite its strong showing in elections.
The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party swept into the Bundestag lower house of parliament with 12.6 percent of the vote last month, making it the first far-right organisation to win seats there since the 1950s - and the third largest parliamentary group.
All blocs represented in the Bundestag are entitled to have their own vice president of the parliament, who chairs sessions, sets the agenda and call MPs to order where necessary. But the candidates need to be approved by a simple majority of all sitting lawmakers.
Four out of five of AfD’s rival blocs in parliament spoke out against the AfD’s choice of Albrecht Glaser - a 75-year-old who has called Islam is a political ideology not a religion, and said it is impossible to differentiate between Muslims and Islamists.
The objections just over a week after a national election showed the difficulties AfD may face in pushing its agenda - ranging from immigration and an insistence that Islam does not belong to Germany to the problems it sees in the euro zone.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc has so far not taken a public position on the AfD’s choice. Michael Grosse-Broemer, the head of its parliamentary group, declined to comment on Monday.
But Dietmar Bartsch, head of the radical Left’s parliamentary group, and Cem Ozdemir, head of the Greens’, told newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung they would not vote Glaser into the position.
“Whoever questions the freedom of religion has disqualified themselves,” Ozdemir said.
Representatives of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) also expressed doubts about the AfD’s choice of Glaser.
Alexander Gauland, head of the AfD’s parliamentary group, told Reuters on Monday his party was sticking to its choice of candidate. “We all share Mr Glaser’s opinion so it’s completely clear,” he said.
Gauland provoked outrage by saying during the election campaign that Germans should be proud of their World War Two soldiers.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told mass-selling Bild newspaper that Gauland was not conscious enough of the feelings of other European countries who suffered under Nazi rule.
“I won’t accuse the whole AfD or its voters of being total Nazis - that would be simplistic - but if you’re head of a group in Germany’s Bundestag you need to consider how Germany’s neighbours feel. And Gauland doesn’t do that,” he said.
Reporting by Hans-Edzard Busesmann and Andreas Rinke; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Andrew Heavens