The leader of the far-Right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has indicated she may stand down less than six months before national elections.
Two months after she stood alongside Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders at what was billed as an “alternative European summit”, Frauke Petry stunned party supporters by announcing she was considering quitting politics altogether.
“Neither the politics nor the AfD are indispensible for me,” Ms Petry told Tagesspiegel newsaper.
“It makes sense to consider and readjust your life from time to time. That’s the way I see it now after more than four years with the AfD, which has demanded an enormous amount of energy and forced me to wave goodbye to a normal life.”
Ms Petry’s surprise comments come after a turbulent start to 2017 for the AfD. The party, seen as the main threat to Angela Merkel for most of last year, has plummetted in the opinion polls.
Its support was down to just 7 per cent in a recent poll for the Forsa institute from a high of 15 per cent last summer, and some analysts have suggested it could struggle to clear the 5 per cent threshold to win seats in parliament in September’s elections.
Ms Petry’s leadership has been rocked by infighting. Rivals on the extreme Right of the party have long wanted to force her out, while she has been locked in a struggle to expel Björn Höcke, a senior party figure who called in January for Germany to stop atoning for its Nazi past.
At a recent party event Ms Petry was reduced to tears when she came under sustained attack from a party rival.
But commentators have suggested any talk of retirement may be more a veiled threat to her crtics than a concession of defeat.
As leader, Ms Petry has transformed the AfD from a fringe movement to a political force to be reckoned with, and most observers agree it would struggle to win the same support without her.
Others have suggested Ms Petry may be feeling the strain of fighting an election campaign and fending off her party rivals while pregnant.
A spokesman denied that she was considering stepping down as party leader.
“Frauke Petry isn’t thinking of retirement, she wants the AfD to be successful in the elections,” Oliver Lang told German television.