A new political party has been founded in Germany. The Alternative for Germany Party wants to abolish the euro, raising concerns among the political establishment that the group will fan anti-European Union sentiment.
Delegates met in Berlin on Sunday to officially launch the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD), which is calling for the "orderly dissolution of the euro" and the return of some sovereignty from the EU to the member states, as well as the introduction of Swiss-style referendums at the federal level.
The party, created by economists and professors dissatisfied with the euro, claims to have already received 7,000 membership applications.
Party spokesman Bernd Lucke told the mass-circulation Bild newspaper that a "double digit result is realistic" in September's general elections. He rejected the idea of a coalition with other parties.
"Our condition for a coalition would be that our governing partner also wants to abolish the euro," Lucke said.
Accusations of populism
Germany’s traditional political parties have criticized AfD’s platform as populist and nationalist. They have also expressed concern that the new party could attract conservative and independent voters frustrated by Berlin's support for the growing number of bailouts for debt-ridden eurozone members.
"They are advocating something that I consider to be unfounded, dangerous and illusionary," Green Party parliamentary chief Jürgen Trittin told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
Trittin accused the AfD of seeking "a return to a traditional-style nation-state" and supporting currency policies that would hurt Germany's export-dependent economy.
"The Alternative for Germany has a program for destroying jobs in the German export industry," he said.
Targeting disaffected voters
Although many observers doubt that the AfD will be voted into Germany’s parliament during general elections this September, some pollsters say that the party could build a base among voters disillusioned with the center-right coalition currently in power.
"If the AfD has a chance of winning five percent, then three percent will come from conservative non-voters and two percent from protest voters," Klaus-Peter Schöppner, head of the pollster Emnid, told the newspaper Wirtschaftswoche.
All political parties in Germany must receive five percent of the national vote in order to qualify for representation in the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag.
Splitting the conservative camp
But even if the AfD fails to win the all-important five percent, some members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition are concerned that the party could get just enough conservative votes to force Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) into a grand coalition with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).
"We are an alternative to the euro policies of Mrs. Merkel," AfD deputy spokeswoman Frauke Petry (pictured above) told the DPA news agency last month. "We have the potential to become a major party."
And with Merkel’s business-friendly junior coalition partners, the Free Democrats (FDP), still smarting from a massive dive in the polls, there are fears that the AfD could effectively block the FDP from entering parliament by denying it the necessary five percent.
"The AfD speaks to many traditional supporters of the [Christian Democratic] Union and the FDP, who have been alienated by the current attempts to modernize and adapt to the zeitgeist," Josef Schlarmann, the head of the CDU/CSU's small business association, told the newsmagazine Focus.
According to a poll conducted by the business daily Handelsblatt, 69 percent of Germans support the euro, while a minority of 27 percent would like the country to return to the deutsche mark.
slk/tm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)