BERLIN (AP) — German lawmakers rejected Thursday for the third time the far-right Alternative for Germany's proposed candidate for deputy speaker of parliament, a posting that would have bolstered its influence and respectability.
It is customary for each party in the Bundestag to have a deputy alongside speaker Wolfgang Schaeuble, a veteran conservative lawmaker. Alternative for Germany, which is known by its German acronym of AfD, has insisted it has the right to name a deputy since it's the biggest opposition party in the current parliament.
The party's candidate, Mariana Harder-Kuehnel, received 199 votes in favor and 423 votes against in a secret ballot. The 44-year-old would have required only a simple majority, following two previous rounds of voting in which an absolute majority of the 709 lawmakers in parliament was necessary.
"It's obviously not possible to work in a consensual fashion in this parliament," AfD's co-leader Alexander Gauland told reporters after the vote. "Rather, there's an effort to exclude us and prevent us from participating in all democratic processes."
Several prominent lawmakers from other parties had said ahead of the vote that they planned to back her, arguing that AfD shouldn't be given the chance to portray themselves as martyrs. In spite of her defeat, Harder-Kuehnel received more than twice the number of votes as her party has lawmakers in parliament.
Her colleague Albrecht Glaser, who was first nominated by AfD in 2017, was also rejected three times after suggesting that freedom of religion shouldn't apply to Islam.
Ahead of the vote, Harder-Kuehnel had sought to present herself as a moderate voice in her party. A lawyer by training, she has advocated conservative Christian family values. However, Hamburg-based weekly Der Spiegel has reported that Harder-Kuehnel also has ties to an ultranationalist wing of her party that has caught the attention of security agencies.
AfD has come under increasing scrutiny from the country's domestic intelligence agency. Several of its members, including former leader Frauke Petry, have left the party claiming it is drifting toward the extreme right.
Gauland, AfD's co-leader, said Thursday's vote to a "declaration of war" against his party.
"It certainly wasn't a peace offering," he said, comparing it instead to the post-World War I Treaty of Versailles that was decried by German nationalists at the time.