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Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) was expelled from the Identity and Democracy (ID) political group in the European Parliament this month following a series of scandals that have damaged the far-right party’s popularity and sparked concerns about rising extremism in the movement, Politico reported.

The expulsion came last week after Maximilian Krah, the AfD’s lead candidate for next month’s European elections, told an Italian newspaper that not all members of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary group “Schutzstaffel” (SS) were criminals, prompting a severe backlash.

Krah’s remarks prompted the AfD to suspend him and ban him from public appearances. The anti-immigrant group blamed Krah for causing “massive damage to the party in the current election campaign, for which the candidate had provided the pretext.”

Despite his expulsion, Krah’s comments also drew criticism from the ID bloc: Marie Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Rally party, which is also part of the bloc, said she no longer wants to sit with the AfD, adding that it is “clearly controlled by radical groups.”

The grouping voted to expel the AfD, two weeks before millions of Europeans will cast their ballots to elect lawmakers in the European Parliament.

The move also comes as some AfD officials and leaders have been embroiled in a number of scandals in recent months that have impacted the party’s popularity.

In January, a report found that AfD politicians participated in a secret meeting where right-wing extremists proposed a plan of “remigration” that would deport foreigners and “unassimilated” citizens.

Recent incidents also include allegations that some AfD members are spying for China and accepting bribes from Russia. Earlier this month, AfD regional leader Björn Höcke was fined for using banned Nazi slogans.

Also in May, a German court ruled that the country’s domestic security service can continue spying on the AfD because of the threat it poses to Germany’s democracy.

Political analysts Lorenz Blumenthaler told CNN that the AfD only acts when electoral prospects are threatened. The suspension of Krah, this close to an election, is seen as a drastic step reflecting internal party crises and potential impacts on voters’ perceptions.

Others suggested that expulsion is also part of an effort by European far-right parties to appear more moderate to their electorate.

But despite these issues and concerns of increasing radicalism within the group, observers said the party remains resilient in Germany and is polling higher than each of the three parties in the country’s ruling coalition.

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