Germany's right-wing AfD campaigns against Islam, power 'oligarchy'

Frauke Petry, the telegenic public face of Germany's anti-immigration AfD, who has become embroiled in infighting

The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party called for closing borders, restricting Islamic practices and fighting the ruling "oligarchy" in its election campaign programme released Thursday.

Polling at around 11 percent now, the four-year-old AfD aims to become the first party to the right of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc to enter the national parliament in September elections.

The AfD opposes all "mainstream" political parties and what it regards as their allies in the media, arguing that Germany is ruled by a remote elite that is betraying ordinary citizens.

"The secret sovereign in Germany is a small, powerful political oligarchy which has emerged from the existing political parties" and has come to dominate the state, public education and media, argues a draft of its programme.

The AfD stressed its position that "Islam is not part of Germany" -- directly contradicting the message of its declared enemy, Merkel, to the country's estimated 4.5 million Muslims.

It also demanded "the immediate closure of borders to end the chaotic mass immigration," said a party representative, and said it opposes family reunions for those granted refugee status.

It demanded an official investigation into Merkel's decision to keep open national borders amid a mass influx of refugees and migrants that has brought one million asylum seekers since 2015.

"We want to pass on to coming generations a country that is still recognisable as our Germany," said the AFD, bemoaning that "Germany is losing its cultural identity because of a flawed notion of tolerance".

The AfD was founded as a small fringe party in 2013, at the height of the eurozone crisis, to oppose bailouts for indebted economies like Greece and to demand the reintroduction of the deutschmark.

But after a leadership coup launched by co-leader Frauke Petry, it has adopted a more strident anti-immigration and law-and-order position, and publicly allied itself with France's far-right National Front.

It has entered a string of state parliaments, but recently dipped in the polls amid infighting and a prominent member's inflammatory comments about Holocaust remembrance.

Among its policies is a ban on Islamic head coverings for teachers, students and public servants, which it said would follow "the French model".

It also opposes mosque minarets and loudspeakers for calls to prayer, describing them as symbols of "Islamic domination".

The party would also reverse Germany's green energy transition away from nuclear power and fossil fuels and toward renewables such as solar and wind, arguing that there is no firm proof for man-made climate change.

The programme is set to be adopted at a party congress in the western city of Cologne on April 22-23.