Frauke Petry, co-leader of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), said on Wednesday she would not lead the anti-immigration party's campaign for a Sept. 24 federal election - a surprising move that could play into the hands of established parties.
The shock decision by Petry, the face of the AfD, removes her from the very top of a party that has hurt Angela Merkel's conservatives in regional votes but which may now pose less of a threat to the chancellor's bid for a fourth term in office.
Petry's announcement came after she caused controversy by tabling a motion for a congress next weekend in which she said the AfD - which is shunned by other parties - should be ready to join coalitions in future. She said some other senior AfD members like Alexander Gauland, however, wanted it to be a "fundamental" opposition party.
Speaking in a video message posted on her Facebook page, Petry denied suggestions that she had made the proposal with a view to becoming the party's top candidate.
"In order to put an end to all speculation in this regard, I am using the opportunity of this video message to clearly state that I am neither available for a lone lead candidacy nor for participation in a top team," she said.
Opinion polls show the AfD winning enough votes to enter the Bundestag lower house of parliament for the first time after September's election.