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Anti-Euro Party Founded In Germany Ahead Of Election

posted 14 Apr 2013, 07:02 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 14 Apr 2013, 07:02 ]

With just over five months until Germans go to the polls, a group of the country's economists and academics found a new anti-euro party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), calling for a return to the Deutschmark.

 BERLINGERMANY (APRIL 14, 2013) (REUTERS) - As Germany's politicians start to pick up the pace five months before a general election, a new party is hoping that it will be able to pull in the votes.

The new "Alternative for Germany" or AfD party was officially founded in Berlin on Sunday (April 14), with its leaders calling for a plan to bring back the Deutschmark.

The AfD has been denounced by the country's mainstream parties as an irrational group of scaremongers, keen to profit from anxiety over the growing cost of euro zone bailouts in Europe's paymaster.

But members of the Alternative for Germany's board say they are well informed and should be taken seriously.

"Many of our people are former members of other parties, especially on the board, they have party experience, we have planned carefully and have thought about what we want to do and we are confident that the members who have gathered here will on the whole, follow our proposals. Of course they should also put forward their own proposals, they will do this. But I think we have a good perspective for success," Konrad Adam, member of the party board told journalists ahead of the conference.

But the leaders of the new movement, headed by economist Bernd Lucke who until 2011 was a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), is trying to present a more sober face and distance themselves from other parties in Europe that mix their euroscepticism with unabashed populism and anti-immigration platforms.

"We have been in this crisis for three years and each year it has worsened. Each year we grant higher payments, each year the debt of the southern countries increases, and each year more and more countries are being pulled into the wake of the crisis. We cannot see a way out. The German governments hasn't got a plan B. It puts out slogans for perseverance which nobody believes in. None of its projections came about. The crisis remains unsolved and continues to spread without obstruction. It is a complete disaster," Lucke told the conference ahead of a vote which was expected to officially confirm him as party head.

"In politics nothing is irreversible, especially the euro. It was a historic mistake, but mistakes can be corrected. Even if the euro collapses, Europe will not collapse," he added.

The three-year old euro zone crisis has led to the rise of populist movements across the bloc.

A taboo on nationalism in politics, rooted in atonement for the crimes of the Nazis, has so far kept a lid on such trends in Germany, although many voters here are tiring of the perceived cost of the single currency.

Germany's AfD, led mostly by greying academics and besuited business figures such as the former head of Germany's industry association Hans-Olaf Henkel, insist they are neither populist nor right-wing.

The AfD says it rejects membership applications from people deemed extremist. Its party programme includes a section on integration policy, stating that Germany"needs immigrants who are qualified and willing to integrate".

The AfD also considers itself pro-European, albeit anti-euro, and has expressed solidarity with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, who wants to shift responsibilities from Brussels back to the EU member states.

Eurosceptic parties have made little headway in the past in a country that regained its political stature after World War Two through its membership ofEurope, although opponents of the bloc's bailouts have emerged in mainstream parties like Merkel's CDU, their Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union, as well as the FDP.

Polls in recent weeks have shown that roughly one in four Germans would consider backing a party that wanted to take Germany out of the euro.

Pollsters said they did not expect the AfD to make it above the 5 percent threshold needed to enter parliament in September as it was a single-issue party, but it could still become a threat to Merkel's re-election chances if it siphons off votes from her conservative bloc.

Polls show Merkel's conservatives well ahead of their opposition rivals the Social Democrats (SPD), but their FDP allies are struggling, putting coalitions from the centre-left and centre-right neck-and-neck.

Lucke's party took its name "Alternative for Germany" in response to repeated claims by Merkel's government that there was no alternative to bailing out countries like GreecePortugal and Ireland.

Even the opposition SPD and Greens have refused to challenge Merkel's rescue policies.