French far-right RN breaks with German ally AfD after Krah’s revisionist remarks

After the German far-right party’s lead candidate, Maximilian Krah, made revisionist remarks in an interview, Marine Le Pen made it clear that her party would not sit in the same group as AfD members in the European Parliament. 

Two weeks ahead of the European elections, the French far-right party RN is breaking up with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, one of its main allies in the Identity and Democracy (ID) group in the European Parliament. 

Speaking to the newspaper Libération, Alexandre Loubet, the director of Jordan Bardella’s campaign, declared, “We will no longer sit with them in the next mandate.”

Le Monde reported that the RN confirmed the break “following recent statements by the AfD.” Marine Le Pen had been preparing to make the decision official. “My mind is made up about the AfD,” the three-time presidential candidate said in private last week. “A movement that has fallen under the sway of its most radical fringe no longer seems to me to be a reliable and suitable ally.”

This was before the publication, in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica and in the Financial Times, of an interview with Maximilian Krah, the lead AfD candidate in the June 9 election. The MEP sparked yet another scandal for his party by arguing that not every member of the SS, the paramilitary organization central to Adolf Hitler’s totalitarian regime, should be automatically considered a criminal.

“One million soldiers wore the SS uniform. Can you really say that because someone was an officer in the Waffen-SS, they were a criminal?”, said Krah.

Far from fearing the consequences that the RN might draw from the provocations and legal proceedings in which his movement is mired, Krah took advantage of the interview with La Repubblica to challenge his French partner: “If we are expelled, I doubt they will manage to reach the number of seven countries required to form a group.”

The RN, tired of having to explain itself in every AfD controversy, is therefore taking the risk of lengthy negotiations and having to form a small group without representatives from Germany.

However, the separation between the French and German partners seemed inevitable to preserve the RN’s image in the voters’ eyes. Le Pen has chosen not to seek justifications for links with a party with obvious extremist views.

Historically, the anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denial remarks of the Le Pen party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, have slowed its electoral progress. In November 2023, the head of RN’s electoral list, Jordan Bardella, denied the anti-Semitism of the party’s co-founder, confirming his party’s project of seducing the Jewish and center-right electorate.

Since the Correctiv investigation about AfD’s project on ‘expelling foreigners’, Le Pen has waited four months and numerous other incidents before definitively distancing herself from the German far-right ally. 

Suspected of illegally receiving money from Russian and Chinese sources, Krah is now the subject of two investigations opened by the Office of the German Federal Public Prosecutor. The Office of the German Federal Public Prosecutor arrested his former aid in Dresden at the end of April on suspicion of spying for China. Several German media outlets have since revealed that investigators are looking into suspicious money transfers between them and their former employer.

More recently, the courts have dealt the AfD two blows: on May 14, Björn Höcke, leader of the radical wing of the party, was fined for using a slogan from the SA, the paramilitary militia of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Party; the day before, a court had authorized the domestic intelligence service to keep the far-right formation “under surveillance” as “a potentially extremist party.”

In the European Parliament, European nationalist and populist right parties are currently split between two groups, ID and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), of which Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia and Spain’s Vox are members. 

In recent months, as polls for the European elections have shown the far right gaining ground across the EU, various rumors of possible alliances have circulated. The RN claims to be in a position to keep a large number of IDs around it and to win over groups not currently represented in the European Parliament.

The RN hopes to continue working with other radical movements, such as the Flemish party Vlaams Belang or Matteo Salvini’s Lega from Italy. The RN also plans to retain MEPs from Estonia (Conservative People’s Party of Estonia), the Czech Republic (Freedom and Direct Democracy), and possibly Denmark (Danish People’s Party). The ID group should also be able to count among its ranks the Portuguese party Chega and Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, both of which will be sending elected representatives to Strasbourg.

Another of Le Pen’s xenophobic, pro-Russian allies, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), is leading in the polls in Austria. Historically close to both the RN and the AfD, it will face a conflict of loyalties. It has connections to Martin Sellner, the leader of the Austrian xenophobic group.

The big maneuvers on the far right flank of the European Parliament have only just begun. Even in France, the votes of the far-right are divided between Le Pen’s RN party and Eric Zemmour’s Reconquête. So, we’ll have to wait for the results of the June elections to see how the groups in Parliament will be formed.

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