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German anti-Islam group Pegida to launch political party

The group launched a branch in Ireland in February.

File photo of Lutz Bachmann the controversial founder of Pegida.
File photo of Lutz Bachmann the controversial founder of Pegida.
Image: Frank Augstein/AP

GERMANY’S ANTI-ISLAMIC, anti-immigrant Pegida movement announced yesterday it is seeking to found a political party but stressed it would not seek to draw votes from populist far-right group AfD.

The new grouping would be called the Popular Party for Freedom and Direct Democracy, or the FDDV by its German acronym, movement head Lutz Bachmann said at a meeting in Dresden, Pegida’s eastern stronghold.

Bachmann – convicted and fined in May for inciting racial hatred by branding refugees “cattle” and “scum” on social media – insisted he did not intend to stand for the leadership.

Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West) is a broad European network of loosely linked groups opposed to what they call the “Islamisation of Europe”.

The network launched an Irish branch in Dublin in February of year – an event that was met with a strong counter-demonstration by opposing groups.

Violence broke out following the counter-demonstration, with both sides clashing and gardaí becoming involved.

The move to form a party comes with authorities mulling a ban for the original association which spawned Pegida over fears of growing extremism.

Bachmann insisted the new party would not seek to overshadow the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has polled at more than 10% support in recent months.

The AfD was founded as a eurosceptic protest party in 2013 but now mainly rails against Islam and Germany’s openness to refugees, which last year brought more than one million asylum seekers to Europe’s top economy.

“We shall support the AfD in the next elections (scheduled for 2017) and shall only field candidates in a limited number of constituencies,” Bachmann said.

He added that relations between the two far-right movements were mostly good and that “only together” could they serve their mutual cause.

Cracks in the AfD have emerged in recent months, with a leadership split deepening after a row over anti-Semitic comments by one of the party’s lawmakers, who labelled Holocaust deniers “dissidents”.

There are also differences within the AfD on whether to embrace Pegida or keep the movement at arm’s length.

 © – AFP 2016 with reporting from Cormac Fitzgerald

Read: The leader of a controversial anti-Islam group is coming to Ireland

Read: RTÉ cameraman injured in demonstrations on O’Connell Street

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