PARIS, May 22 — French far-right leader Marine le Pen today said her party needed to make a “clean break” with the German Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, suggesting the AfD had become too toxic an ally ahead of European elections in June.

Speaking in a radio interview, Le Pen accused the AfD of being rudderless and in hock to radical elements within it.

“It was urgent to establish a cordon sanitaire,” said le Pen on Europe 1 radio. “The AfD goes from provocation to provocation,” she said.

“Now it’s no longer time to distance ourselves, it’s time to make a clean break with this movement.”

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The split comes after the AfD, which had shot up to become Germany’s second-most popular party ahead of local and European elections this year, has come under intense scrutiny over its policies and the conduct of some senior figures.

The public break with Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) could test the far right’s push for a strong electoral showing and could put more pressure on the AfD domestically after it began slipping in opinion polls in recent weeks.

Le Pen’s comments come a day after the RN, leading the race for the EU elections in France, said it will no longer sit with the AfD in the European Parliament.

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In an interview published last weekend, the AfD’s leading election candidate, Maximilian Krah, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that “SS were not all criminals”.

The SS, or “Schutzstaffel”, was the main paramilitary force of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party, and, among its many roles, took a leading part in the Holocaust, the slaughter of 6 million Jews and other groups targeted by the Nazis.

The AfD did not immediately respond to a request for comment but Germany’s ZDF broadcaster said on Wednesday morning that Krah had left the AfD’s senior leadership team.

The AfD has also faced mass street protests after senior figures attended a meeting where the deportation of Germans with immigrant backgrounds was discussed, and over allegations that it harbours agents for Russia and China.

Last week, a German court ruled that domestic security services could continue to keep the AfD under surveillance as a potentially extremist party.

The AfD has pushed back against racism allegations. The party portrays itself as the target of a complacent, self-serving establishment it stands ready to sweep away.

Polls suggest that nationalist and eurosceptic parties will win a record number of votes in June. Voters are expected to punish mainstream parties for failing to shield households from high inflation, curb immigration or deliver adequate housing and healthcare.

The far-right parties in the European parliament are currently split between the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), whose de facto leader is Italian Prime minister Georgia Meloni, and the Identity and Democracy (ID) group, spearheaded by the RN. — Reuters