BERLIN (Reuters) - Three of Germany’s main parties have raised objections to the far-right Alternative for Germany’s (AfD) candidate for the post of parliamentary vice president, highlighting its political isolation despite a strong showing in the Sept. 24 election.
The anti-immigrant AfD swept into the Bundestag lower house of parliament with 12.6 percent of the vote, making it the third largest parliamentary group. It is the first far-right party to enter the Bundestag since the 1950s.
All parties represented in the Bundestag are entitled to have their own vice president of the parliament, who chairs sessions, sets the agenda and calls lawmakers to order where necessary. But the candidates need to be approved by an absolute majority of all sitting lawmakers.
The Greens, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the radical Left Party spoke out against the AfD’s nomination of 75-year-old Albrecht Glaser, who has called Islam a political ideology rather than a religion, and said Muslims should not have the right to freedom of religion as Islam did not respect that freedom.
Their objections demonstrated the difficulties the AfD may face in pushing its agenda - ranging from immigration and an insistence that Islam does not belong in Germany to problems it sees in the euro zone.
The parliamentary vice presidents are generally elected in the first session of the lower house, which is expected to take place by Oct. 24 at the latest.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc has so far not taken a public position on the AfD’s choice. Michael Grosse-Broemer, the head of the conservatives’ parliamentary group, declined to comment on Monday.
Carsten Schneider, parliamentary manager of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), told Reuters TV he did not know Glaser personally, did not want to pre-judge him and would seek to clarify with other parliamentary groups whether they could get to know Glaser in some format first.
However, Dietmar Bartsch, head of the Left’s parliamentary group, and Cem Ozdemir of the Greens told newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung they would not vote Glaser into the position.
“Whoever questions the freedom of religion has disqualified themselves,” Ozdemir said.
A representative of the FDP also expressed doubts about the AfD’s choice of Glaser.
Glaser was a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) for 40 years until quitting in 2012 and helping to found the AfD in 2013.
Alexander Gauland, head of the AfD’s parliamentary group, told Reuters his party was sticking to its choice of candidate. “We all share Mr Glaser’s opinion so it’s completely clear,” he said.
Gauland provoked outrage by saying during the election campaign that Germans should be proud of their World War Two soldiers.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told mass-selling Bild newspaper that Gauland was not conscious enough of the feelings of other European countries who suffered under Nazi rule.
“I won’t accuse the whole AfD or its voters of being total Nazis - that would be simplistic - but if you’re head of a group in Germany’s Bundestag you need to consider how Germany’s neighbors feel. And Gauland doesn’t do that,” he said.
Reporting by Hans-Edzard Busesmann, Holger Hansen and Andreas Rinke; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Gareth Jones