BERLIN (AP) — The far-right Alternative for Germany faces a new challenge from a breakaway faction after a once-prominent member confirmed Friday that he has quit to found a rival party.
Andre Poggenburg told German news agency dpa that he believes his new movement stands a chance of entering state parliament in regional elections later this year.
Poggenburg led Alternative for Germany to its strongest state election performance yet, when the party won almost a quarter of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt in 2016.
The 43-year-old resigned as regional party leader last year after labeling Turks as "camel drivers" and immigrants with dual nationality a "homeless mob we no longer want to have."
In an interview with daily Die Welt, Poggenburg said the party, known by its acronym AfD, had taken a noticeable left turn lately for fear of being placed under observation by Germany's domestic intelligence agency.
The new party, named Awakening of German Patriots, features a blue corn flower in its logo.
In neighboring Austria, the flower has historically been associated with the anti-Semitic Schoenerer Movement and was used as a secret symbol by Nazi sympathizers until the Alpine nation was annexed by Adolf Hitler's Germany in 1938. The far-right Austrian Freedom Party has occasionally revived the symbol, while insisting that the flower is free of Nazi associations.
Awakening of German Patriots is the fourth breakaway movement to emerge from Alternative for Germany since its founding in 2013.
In 2015, AfD founder Bernd Lucke quit after losing an internal power struggle. His Liberal-Conservative Reformers have one seat in the European Parliament — held by Lucke.
AfD co-leader Frauke Petry quit the party just after Germany's national election in September 2017. She now leads the Blue Party, with two seats in the national parliament.
The same year the leader of AfD in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Bernhard Wildt, quit the party and formed a grouping called Citizens for Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.