Mon, Sep 15, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Anti-euro party eyes gains in German state elections

AFP, BERLIN

Germany’s new anti-euro party was poised to win seats in two eastern state elections yesterday, heightening an emerging threat for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD), formed early last year, looks set to enter state parliaments in Thuringia and Brandenburg two weeks after it scored almost 10 percent in eastern Saxony.

Headed by economics professor Bernd Lucke, the ascendant party narrowly missed out on entering the national parliament in September last year and won seven seats in European Parliament elections in May.

The party, which wants Germany to leave the euro and return to the Deutschmark, denies seeking right-wing voters, but flirts with populist ideas on issues such as law and order, immigration and “family values.”

Among its policy demands are “direct democracy,” including a state level referendum that would seek to block plans to build a mosque in the eastern city of Dresden.

The AfD was set to draw much of the “protest vote” in the former East, which still lags western states in wealth, jobs and wages 25 years after the Berlin Wall fell, analysts said.

Merkel, worried about the AfD’s growing ballot box appeal, this week said that “we must address the problems that concern the people,” including “crime and rising numbers of asylum seekers.”

Analysts say the AfD is seeking to occupy the political ground to the right of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), while keeping its distance from the far-right fringe, represented by the openly xenophobic National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD).

“The CDU is slowly starting to understand what the AfD really is — not a transient protest movement, not an ‘NPD-light,’ but a party that is drawing significant support ... from former CDU voters” among other groups, Werner Patzelt of Dresden Technical University said.

The political scientist said it is too early to tell whether the AfD is here to stay, a question that he said depends on how its new legislators perform.

Patzelt said that the AfD’s central theme — railing against eurozone bailouts and an emerging EU “super state” — is unlikely to go away soon and that such fears are mirrored in other European countries.

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