German far-right party candidate withdraws from European campaign amid scandals 

Maximilian Krah, the leading candidate for Germany’s far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the European elections, stepped back from campaigning on May 22. 

He made this decision to calm the backlash following his statement that the SS, the Nazis’ primary paramilitary force, were “not all criminals.”

Krah stated that he would not attend future campaign appearances and resigned from the senior leadership team of AfD with immediate effect.

Repeated scandals involving AfD

AfD is part of the “Identity and Democracy” group in the European Parliament, a coalition known for its far-right and Eurosceptic positions. However, recent scandals surrounding Krah and his associates might affect his party’s electoral outcomes.

Krah’s statement underscored the use of his comments as a pretext to undermine the party. He insisted that the last thing the AfD needed was a debate about him, and he stressed the importance of upholding unity within the party. 

The backlash stemmed from his interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, in which he remarked that “SS were not all criminals.” The SS, or “Schutzstaffel,” was Hitler’s main paramilitary force and played a leading role in the Holocaust, responsible for the slaughter of 6 million Jews and other targeted groups.

As Krah’s aide faced accusations of spying for China, the pressure on the politician escalated.

This scandal, along with mass street protests against AfD and allegations of harboring agents for Russia and China, has significantly damaged the party’s reputation. 

Recently, a German court ruled that domestic security services could continue to keep AfD under surveillance as a potentially extremist party.

Krah’s support by pro-Russian German media

Pro-Russian media in Germany, like Welnetz, have portrayed this event differently, often downplaying the severity of Krah’s statements and framing the backlash as a politically motivated attack on the AfD party. 

Pro-Russian outlets typically present Krah as a victim of political correctness and a defender of historical nuance, attempting to garner sympathy and support among far-right and nationalist audiences. 

Observers heavily criticize such coverage for distorting facts and promoting biased narratives that support the Kremlin’s interests.


AfD lost its ally in France

This incident made AfD too toxic for the French far-right allies. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s Rassemblement National (RN), in a radio interview, accused AfD of being rudderless and overly influenced by radical elements. 

RN decided to terminate cooperation with AfD in the European Parliament, where both parties belonged to the extreme right-wing faction “Identity and Democracy” (ID). This split highlights the difficulties that far-right parties face in forming a coalition at the European level.

Le Pen urgently called for cutting ties with the German party, stating that AfD’s provocations had gone too far. She emphasized the need for a clean break with AfD, marking a significant split between the two far-right parties of the two biggest nations in the EU.

Russia’s interference in European elections

As Europe gears up for the European Parliament elections scheduled for June 6–9, 2024, the rise of AfD and other far-right parties underscores the ongoing challenges Western democracies face from both right-wing and left-wing populism. 

The rise of AfD and its opposition to NATO, Western policies, and support for Ukraine in the face of Russian war aggression have marked German politics over the last two years. 

To uphold European democratic values, voters and European institutions must closely monitor political financing and foreign influences as the European Parliament elections draw near.

Surveys indicate that many Germans believe that AfD is strongly influenced by Russia and China. Several high-profile cases of espionage and influence-peddling in favor of these countries support this belief.

The involvement of foreign influences, particularly from Russia and China, adds a layer of intrigue and concern as the EU prepares for the upcoming European Parliament elections.

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