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More than 50,000 demonstrators are expected to descend on Cologne to protest against the politics of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) as the party holds one of the most important conferences in its four-year history. The AfD, known for its populist, anti-immigration stance, is hoping to enter parliament for the first time in Germany's general election on 24 September. About 4,000 police officers have been deployed to avert clashes on the city's streets between anti-AfD protesters and party supporters. About 600 AfD delegates are expected to attend the conference. The central city hotel, where the conference is being held, has made arrangements to allow staff members to stay overnight in the hotel to minimise problems with gaining entry to the venue. Hannelore Kraft, state premier of North-Rhine Westphalia, where the conference is taking place, and Green party leader Cem Ozdemir were due to speak at an anti-AfD rally on Saturday. The two-day conference comes just days after AfD leader Frauke Petry ruled herself out of spearheading the party's campaign for the September election. Her move brought to a head a long-running internal party power struggle, which pitted Petry against the party's right-wingers. Hundreds arrested in Germany as far-right party meets The AfD delegates attending the conference are likely to sign off on the party's election manifesto but will have to set aside months of turmoil to agree on a team to lead the campaign Petry has also placed a controversial motion before congress calling on the party to adopt a realpolitik approach, with the aim of transforming the AfD into a mainstream party open to coalition. Founded in 2013 on a eurosceptic platform, the AfD has railed against Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to let in more than one million refugees to Germany since 2015. In May 2016 AfD backed an election manifesto that says Islam is not compatible with the German constitution and the party also supported a call to ban minarets on mosques and the full-face veil. AfD made huge gains in a state election in September, receiving about 21 percent of votes in the eastern Mecklenburg-Vorpommern region, beating Merkel's party to take second place.
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