BERLIN (Reuters) - Frauke Petry, the former co-leader of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), wants to form her own party after quitting the far-right group following the Sept. 24 national election which catapulted it into parliament as the third largest bloc.
Petry, a 42-year-old chemist who was the most high-profile figure in the AfD’s more moderate wing, was asked in an interview with Welt am Sonntag newspaper whether she wanted to form her own group in the Bundestag lower house and then a party.
“Yes,” she said.
She also said she and her supporters in the regional assembly of the eastern state of Saxony would form a group and perhaps a parliamentary group with the aim of running in the 2019 regional election.
Petry was the AfD’s most recognizable face for much of the last two years as she transformed it from an anti-bailout party into a predominantly anti-immigration party capitalizing on rising public anger over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to open the borders to more than a million migrants.
Petry sought to distance herself from some of the AfD’s more extreme positions as she explained her reasons for wanting to found a new party.
“The clientele for what we want to do, namely practical politics with a clear market orientation, is much bigger outside the AfD,” she said.
Last week Petry shocked the party by announcing she would take up her seat as an independent MP and quit the AfD after it won 12.6 percent in the election, becoming the first far-right party to win seats in parliament since the 1950s.
Several other AfD members have followed Petry - who had for months clashed with other senior figures because she wanted the party to take a more moderate course - in leaving.
Petry stressed she would not aim to cause an exodus from the AfD: “We won’t seek to remove the core of the AfD because it won’t work,” she said. “I know that AfD members want to switch to us because we have received requests from them.”
Petry, whose Facebook page now describes her as “free and conservative”, declined to say what the party would be called.
She did not give much detail on what it would stand for but said she agreed with much of the AfD’s manifesto.
The AfD says Islam in general does not belong to Germany but Petry said if Muslims accepted religion was their private issue and did not make political demands based on it, they could make Germany their home.
She also said she favored controlled immigration of qualified foreigners while others in the AfD were against all kinds of immigration.
The AfD is ostracized by all other parties, which refuse to work with it. None of them even want to sit next to the AfD in parliament.
Reporting by Michelle Martin, editing by Ed Osmond