Marine Le Pen breaks with AfD, ending de facto the ID Group in the European Parliament

Marine Le Pen @MLP_officiel
Marine Le Pen is speaking at the Vox far-right event in Madrid on May 19.

Last January, the relations between Marine Le Pen and the German right extremist party AfD entered into a critical phase after a video revealed a secret far-right meeting in Potsdam envisaging the transfer to North Africa of numerous “unassimilated German citizens” of foreign origin. Le Pen has expressed her outrage and threatened to dissolve the Identity and Democracy (ID) group in the EU Parliament. 1  

Despite German security authorities meticulously scrutinising the party, Le Pen passionately avoided a split before the European elections. Today, she realised the AfD moved too far after its leading election candidate, Maximilian Krah, said in an interview that “SS were not all criminals”. 

In 2027, Le Pen will run as a candidate in the French presidential election for the fourth time. She attempts to reshape her political profile by eliminating the most extremist points. However, her alliance with the AfD, the larger party after Le Pen’s National Rally (Rassemblement National – NR) in the ID group, represents a high risk for her ambitions. In addition, this collaboration will potentially affect RN’s performance in the June European elections.   

AfD constantly moves towards extremism

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) has classified the AfD as a potentially extreme party since 2021. On May 13, a German high court ruled that BfV was justified in monitoring the party for suspected extremism and that it “could continue to be treated as a potentially extremist party”.

Last April, prosecutors charged Björn Höcke, the Chief of the AfD parliamentary group in the state parliament of Thuringia and the leader of an internal extremist faction of the party (Der Flügel, with a second count of uttering a slogan used by the Nazis’ SA stormtroopers at a political event.  

AfD is also facing allegations of hosting Chinese and Russian spies and agents. There are concerns about orchestrated Chinese spying activities targeting Germany. Three people were arrested last month for funnelling sensitive technology to China for military purposes.

German prosecutors have ordered the Brussels offices of the party’s top candidate for the European Parliament elections, Maximilian Krah, and his assistant, Jian Guo, arrested last month on suspicion of spying for China, to be searched under the investigating German judge and a European investigation orders. Furthermore, the news magazine Der Spiegel and public broadcaster ZDF have reported that the FBI questioned Krah in December regarding possible payments from pro-Russian sources. Krah denied receiving such payments and called the investigation a mere supposition. Krah resigned today from the leadership committee and will stop campaigning.  

On May 16, German authorities launched an investigation into Petr Bystron, a Bundestag lawmaker suspected of corruption and money laundering. The lower house in Berlin lifted his parliamentary immunity, and officers searched his office and private rooms. Bystron, the second candidate on the AfD’s list for the European election, has also denied allegations of receiving money from a pro-Russian network.

In an interview the Italian newspaper La Repubblica published last weekend, Maximilian Krah said the SS, the main paramilitary force of the Nazi party, with a leading role in the Holocaust, “were not all criminals”. 

When Le Pen threatened to disband the ID group on January, some AfD leaders sought to preserve relations with RN. However, the party’s extremist wing is gaining the internal majority and doesn’t avoid provoking German society and the AfD’s international partners. Consequently, the French far-right leader said on Wednesday that RN needed to make a “clean break” with the AfD party. In a radio interview, Le Pen noted that the AfD had become too toxic, rudderless, and in hock to radical elements within it.

“It was urgent to establish a cordon sanitaire,” said le Pen on Europe 1 radio. “The AfD goes from provocation to provocation,” she said.   

The AfD between the far-right and the extremist wings

The news about Le Pen’s reaction in January alarmed many, but not all, in the leadership of the AfD. French RN is the most known and powerful ally in the European Parliament and generally within the EU. A split with her could lead AfD to isolation in the next European Parliament. However, AfD seems deeply divided between those who search for keeping the party legal and those who openly flirt with Neo-Nazi ideas. Le Pen stated that the two parties must talk about these enormous differences of opinion regarding this matter. On February 20, in the afternoon, weeks after the “Potsdam meeting,” the co-chair of the AfD, Alice Weidel, travelled to Paris to meet with the parliamentary group leader of the RN, Le Pen, and the new party leader, Jordan Bardella, and explain the AfD’s view about the secret meeting. Le Pen and Weidel met at a restaurant, not at the headquarters of the RN party, and the conversation’s contents remain unknown. AfD co-leader Tino Chrupalla, a hardliner, didn’t participate in the meeting. Only Weidel made an enthusiastic announcement about her meeting with AfD’s French allies, but not all AfD’s key politicians shared the same enthusiasm. Moreover, on the first days, the RN side ignored the meeting. 

In early March, Alice Weidel rejected the idea of ​​millions of “remigration” in a letter to the RN. However, as the AfD constantly moves towards the far right’s most extreme side, nobody believed the party would not cause another scandal. In March 2016, the European Conservative and Reformist (ECR) Group expelled AfD due to comments made by AfD members about the use of firearms to prevent migrants from crossing the border. 

The de facto end of the Identity and Democracy group

The far-right parties in the European Parliament are divided between the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), whose de fac0to leader is Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni, and the ID, led by the RN. National Rally belonged to the ID with AfD and shared many views.

As surveys suggest, several ID members will increase the number of their seats in the European Parliament after the June European elections. Although the League in Italy is in net decline, the French, German, Austrian, Portuguese, and Dutch parties will perform much better than in the 2019 elections, according to the polls. 

The only option for the AfD is to seek to form a proper Group in the European Parliament after June. Parties with similar views will indeed enter the Parliament. However, to form a group in the Parliament, the AfD will need to recruit at least 23 members (MEPs) from seven countries. It’s not an impossible task. 

In addition, we cannot exclude another far-right group from the next European Parliament. Further movements between groups will occur, and new parties will send MEPs to Brussels.

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