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German far-right party laments isolation by rivals, media

FILE-In this Sept. 27, 2018 file photo file photo Alexander Gauland, faction leader of the Alternative for Germany party, AfD, attends a debate of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany. Parliament was asked to lift the immunity of Alexander Gauland, the co-leader of the Alternative for Germany party, to allow for search and seizure decisions ordered by a court to be carried out. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
FILE-In this Sept. 27, 2018 file photo file photo Alexander Gauland, faction leader of the Alternative for Germany party, AfD, attends a debate of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany. Parliament was asked to lift the immunity of Alexander Gauland, the co-leader of the Alternative for Germany party, to allow for search and seizure decisions ordered by a court to be carried out. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BERLIN – The far-right Alternative for Germany called Monday for rivals to scale back their criticism of the party, saying the blackballing it is being subjected to could harm democracy in the country.

The party, known by its German acronym AfD, almost failed to clear the 5% threshold in Sunday's regional election in Hamburg after coming under sustained fire from mainstream parties and the media in recent weeks.

AfD has been accused of stoking the kind of anti-migrant sentiment that drove a 43-year-old German to shoot dead nine people in the city of Hanau last week — a charge the party rejects.

The party has also faced some of the blame for the political turmoil in another German state, Thuringia, after it unexpectedly threw its weight behind a centrist candidate to defeat the incumbent governor.

Alexander Gauland, a senior figure in the party, appealed for all sides, including AfD, to end hostility towards one another.

“Otherwise I don't know how democracy is going to continue in this country,” he said, without elaborating.

Gauland said he regretted a much-criticized remark describing the Nazi era as “bird poop” in German history. He declined to distance himself from a powerful faction with AfD, known as “The Wing,” that has come under scrutiny from Germany's domestic intelligence agency for flirting with extremism.