Germany’s far-Right AfD party splinters as Chancellor Angela Merkel climbs in the polls

Andreas Kalbitz was kicked out of the party – RONNY HARTMANN / AFP via Getty Images

The bitter divisions of Germany's far-right party spread across the country over the weekend, when the party's more moderate faction managed to expel a high-level extremist from its ranks.

The breach occurs when Angela Merkel's popularity increases due to what is seen as her calm and efficient treatment of the Covid-19 pandemic response, and the AfD's popularity sinks.

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Andreas Kalbitz, AfD's leader in Brandenburg, was withdrawn from his participation in the party on Friday after the national leadership narrowly voted to dispel him after discovering his previous association with an extremist movement.

Kalbitz discovered that he hid from the party that he participated in meetings of the Loyal German Youth, a movement considered by Berlin to be neo-Nazi.

His expulsion signaled victory for the moderates of party co-leader Jörg Meuthen, who are trying to position the party as a conservative alternative to Merkel's right-wing Christian Democrats.

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Kalbitz's expulsion comes after German intelligence services classified der Flügel, a sub-organization of the party, as "extremist" earlier this year. Kalbitz led der Flügel together with Björn Höcke, head of the party in Thuringia.

Höcke accused the national leadership of "betrayal" on Sunday, while Kalbitz encouraged his followers to leave the party and threatened legal action.

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Moderates, on the other hand, welcomed the victory, saying that the party did not want to "become the NPD 2.0", a reference to a small neo-Nazi party that has existed since the 1960s.

Mrs Merkel was the main winner of the crisis, with the public strongly supporting her calm public leadership. Confidence in the Chancellor has risen 20 percentage points, to 72%, since the beginning of the year. AfD's popularity reached 10%.

Germany reached a significant milestone over the weekend, when the first state was able to report no new infections for a day. Saxony-Anhalt, a rural state in the east of the country, confirmed that no new cases had been reported in the past 24 hours.

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