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Clashes and Arrests Mark the Beginning of German Far-Right AfD Congress

Clashes between hooded demonstrators and police have marked the start of a party congress for Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), just weeks after the party achieved record results in the EU elections despite several scandals.

On Saturday, around 1,000 police were deployed in the western city of Essen as approximately 600 delegates began a two-day meeting, with authorities anticipating up to 80,000 demonstrators. “Several disruptive violent actions occurred in the Ruettenscheld quarter. Demonstrators, some of them hooded, attacked security forces. Several arrests were made,” stated the North Rhine-Westphalia police on X.

A senior regional official had previously warned about the presence of “potentially violent far-left troublemakers” among the protesters.

AfD co-president Alice Weidel, opening the congress to prolonged applause, declared, “We are here and we will stay. We have the right, like all political parties, to hold a congress.”

Complicating matters for the security forces was the Euro 2024 football tournament, with a last 16 match between Germany and Denmark taking place on Saturday in Dortmund, not far from Essen.

Earlier in June, the AfD achieved its best European Union election result since its inception in 2013, garnering 16 percent of the vote to take second place. It trailed the main conservative CDU-CSU opposition bloc but led Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD), which heads a troubled three-party coalition government.

The AfD has seen a surge in support, hitting up to 22 percent in opinion polls in January, driven by increased immigration and weak economic performance. However, this support has waned due to several scandals primarily involving their top EU election candidate, Maximilian Krah.

At the congress, delegates will vote on a motion to end the practice of having two party co-presidents, proposing instead a single president alongside a general secretary. If approved, co-president Tino Chrupalla could lose his position. Chrupalla has been critical of Krah, making him a potential target for Krah’s supporters. Both Chrupalla and Weidel support introducing the post of secretary general, believing it could help professionalize the AfD ahead of Germany’s 2025 parliamentary elections.

This congress precedes three significant elections in September in states that were part of former East Germany, where the AfD is currently leading in opinion polls.

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