A candidate vying to head the UK Independence Party has warned it could become the "UK Nazi Party" if members choose the wrong person as leader later this month.
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The Guardian reports Henry Bolton as saying that the right-wing, anti-immigration party "could easily slip towards the ideals of national socialism."
Bolton, a former army and police officer, is one of seven candidates hoping to replace former leader Paul Nuttall, who resigned after UKIP's disastrous showing in the U.K. parliamentary election in June. It failed to win a single parliamentary seat and its vote share plummeted to just 1.8 percent.
Although Bolton did not specify which of his rivals he was referring it, the assumption is that he meant Anne Marie Waters, whom The Guardian described as "an anti-Muslim activist who has close links to the far right and has described Islam as 'evil.'"
The Guardian quoted Bolton as saying: "I genuinely fear the election of the wrong UKIP leader could have serious ramifications for the country.
“The clear majority of the members I know joined the party due to its fearlessness in tackling the real issue that mattered to the man on the street. However, under the wrong leadership, we could see a swing away from our traditional, secular values and stances towards something far darker.”
In a clear criticism of Waters' demonization of Muslims. Bolton said: "Frankly, seeking to blame one section of our community for society’s ills is not patriotism; it’s a form of totalitarianism that goes against everything UKIP as a political force has ever achieved.”
Waters is seen as a divisive figure within her own party, with 20 UKIP MEPs vowing to quit the party in the European Parliament if she is elected.
The Guardian notes that Waters was previously deputy leader of the U.K. arm of an anti-Islam group called Pegida, and has praised French National Front leader Marine Le Pen and the Netherlands' far-right leader Geert Wilders. It also quoted her as describing Islam as “an expansionist, political, totalitarian and supremacist faith, commanded to world domination.”
UKIP was formed in 1993, but only started gaining prominence when Nigel Farage became its leader in 2010. The party secured over 12 percent of the vote in the 2015 parliamentary election, allowing it to pressure the Conservative government led by then-Prime Minister David Cameron to call a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union. In June 2016, Britons voted to leave the EU – a victory for UKIP, but one that left many questioning what its policies would be now it its goal had been achieved.
The race to become UKIP's next leader is currently seen as too close to call. The results will be announced on September 29.