Germany's far-right AfD pick hardliners as top election candidates

FILE PHOTO: Alternative for Germany member Alice Weidel speaks to the media at a congress of the far-right AfD in Dresden, Germany, April 10, 2021. REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) picked two hardliners on Tuesday to lead the party into a September national election, dealing a blow to its more moderate wing.

Some 71% of party members favoured the duo of Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla as its top candidates in an online vote against a more mainstream pair.

The anti-immigrant party is polling at around 11%, down from nearly 13% in the 2017 election after which it became the main opposition.

Both Weidel and Chrupalla are already members of the Bundestag (lower house of parliament).

Chrupalla drew criticism at the time of last year's Black Lives Matter protests when he warned that multicultural countries were heading into a dead end.

Set up in 2013 as an anti-euro party during the euro zone debt crisis, the AfD has shifted to the right and capitalised on voter anger over conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy toward migrants in 2015.

It became the third-biggest party in the 2017 election.

The AfD harbours many coronavirus deniers who oppose vaccinations against COVID-19 and have joined anti-lockdown protests. The party's election manifesto also includes a call to leave the European Union.

Germany's mainstream parties refuse to cooperate with it.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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