German parliament committee ousts far-right chairman

International News

Stephan Brandner of the German Alternative for Germany (AfD) party delivers a statement prior to a meeting of the legal affairs committee of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Nov 13. 2019. The German parliament’s legal affairs committee has ousted its chairman, a member of the far-right Alternative for Germany, amid anger over a string of provocative comments. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — The German parliament’s legal affairs committee on Wednesday ousted its chairman, a member of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, amid anger over a string of inflammatory comments he had made.

The committee voted 37-6 Wednesday to remove chairman Stephan Brandner — the first time in the parliament’s 70-year history that a committee chairman has been voted out.

Brandner has repeatedly angered lawmakers from other parties over recent months with broadsides against opponents and his reaction to the killing of two passers-by in a botched attack by a right-wing extremist on a synagogue last month.

That was followed by a tweet railing against an award for singer Udo Lindenberg, who is critical of Alternative for Germany, in which Brandner used the term “Judaslohn” — a biblical reference to the “blood money” Judas Iscariot received for betraying Jesus.

Brandner comes from the eastern state of Thuringia, whose regional Alternative for Germany leader, Bjoern Hoecke, is the party’s best-known far-right firebrand.

The general secretary of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats, Paul Ziemiak, tweeted that Brandner, “Hoecke’s Berlin outpost,” had been “unworthy” as chairman and that “his anti-Semitism is intolerable.”

Brandner has portrayed himself as a victim of unfounded accusations. On Wednesday, he accused other parties of “naked hypocrisy” and declared that “this is not a defeat for us.”

The head of Germany’s main Jewish group, Josef Schuster, said the committee had acted responsibly. Brandner, he said, “was no longer tenable in this office and, in our opinion, actually has no place in parliament.”

Alternative for Germany came third in the country’s 2017 election and is the biggest opposition party.

It has dire relations with other parties. Lawmakers so far have voted down four candidates Alternative for Germany put forward to be parliament’s deputy speaker.

The party also chairs the parliament’s budget and tourism committees. They are symbolically important posts, though the occupants don’t get to change government policy.

Asked by reporters whether the party would propose someone “with integrity” to replace Brandner on the legal affairs committee, Alternative for Germany’s co-leader Alexander Gauland angrily retorted that “we only have persons with integrity.”

A German federal court on Wednesday confirmed a 22-month suspended sentence against a former Alternative for Germany regional lawmaker in Brandenburg, Gauland’s home state, for tax evasion.

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