New anti-euro party forms in Germany

12.03.13 @ 09:29

  1. By Valentina Pop
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Berlin - A new party in favour of returning to the Deutsche Mark is taking shape in Germany, hoping to attract voters disillusioned by the political establishment.

  • Back to the Deutsche Mark - one third of Germans would like that (Photo: robert.linden)

Unlike other European countries, Germany's firm pro-EU and pro-euro stance is deeply anchored in the public psyche, with eurosceptic rhetoric taking place only on the fringes of the political spectrum.

But the new "Alternative for Germany" party is hoping to capitalise on a growing resentment about the euro-crisis and what Germans perceive as costly bailouts for profligate southern countries. Backed by Hans-Olaf Henkel, a prominent eurosceptic and former head of the German Industry Federation (BDI), the new party is expected to have its official launch on 14 April in Berlin.

"I'm trying to save Europe. There is a schism in Europe, a divergence not convergence," Bernd Lucke, one of the leaders of the new party said Monday (11 March) at their first public event, which gathered around 1,200 people in Oberursal, a small town north of Frankfurt.

Lucke, a macro-economics professor from Hamburg, has been a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union for 33 years until 2011, when he left the party over the eurozone bailouts.

He first joined the Free Voters' movement, pooling around the grandson of former Christian Democrat Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who also left the CDU in rebellion over the way Merkel is handling the euro-crisis.

But, favouring a more radical stance on the euro, he later started the 'Alternative for Germany' party.

The Free Voters, for their part, say they do not feel threatened by the new party.

"The more forces join in on this topic, the more exciting will the discussion be," Free Voters leader Hubert Aiwanger told the Stuttgarter Zeitung.

Unlike the "Alternative for Germany", the Free Voters do not advocate for abolishing the euro. They want to expel troubled southern countries temporarily from the euro, until they "recover", Aiwanger explained. The party was founded in 2009 but has so far only made it into the Bavarian regional parliament.

A survey published Monday by TNS-Emnid showed that 26 percent of Germans would consider backing a party that campaigns for getting rid of the euro. A separate poll, published by GkK on 15 February, showed that 65 percent of Germans want to keep the euro, while 35 percent said they would prefer to return to the Deutsche Mark.

New parties have had a tough time entering the German political landscape. The single-issue party advocating Internet freedom - the Pirate Party - was surprisingly successful in 2011 when it got elected into four regional parliaments.

But with its leadership in disarray and voters preferring the more established Greens or radical left Linke, the Pirates are not expected to enter the Bundestag in the 22 September elections. Neither are the two anti-euro parties.