German anti-euro party launched

German anti-euro party launched

BERLIN - The Associated Press
German anti-euro party launched

Delegates of German anti-euro party “Alternative for Germany” vote during the first party congress yesterday. The party plans to get listed for Germany’s upcoming general elections in September.

Alternative for Germany, a party with the main goal of the “orderly dissolution” of the euro Germans might have more chance in upcoming elections as Germans are getting tired of southern European protesters burning their flags and waving placards comparing Chancellor Angela Merkel to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, all in reaction to Berlin’s insistence on reforms and austerity in return for bailout funds.

And it’s enough to make people like Berlin businessman Horst Freiberg, who never felt much love for the euro currency, pine more than ever for the return of the German mark.

“I’d immediately vote for a party that wants to abolish the euro,” said Freiberg, who has run a small business selling ink stamps in central Berlin for more than 40 years. “How can you have one currency with banana republics like Greek Cyprus and Greece? And they always accuse us of being Nazis. It’s sick.”

Such sentiments are still the exception in Germany, where a sense of obligation to help fellow Europeans in distress is rooted in shame for the crimes of the Third Reich. But a new political party hopes to capitalize on simmering fears that the euro crisis could deepen and drag down Europe’s biggest economy. It aims to garner enough votes from people like Freiberg in September elections to reach the 5 percent minimum needed for seats in Parliament.

Called Alternative for Germany, the main goal of the party founded by academics and economists is the “orderly dissolution” of the euro, said Frauke Petry, a business owner and party spokeswoman. The stance puts the party in sharp opposition to Merkel’s position that there can be no Europe without the preservation of the single currency, with her repeated insistence that “if the euro fails, Europe will fail.”

While still a fledgling movement, the new party could hurt Merkel by sapping support from her main coalition partner - which she has relied on for a stable government.

Experts believe the party has little chance of garnering enough of the protest vote to reach the 5 percent threshold. But it could draw enough voters away from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right coalition to force her into an alliance with the opposition or give the opposition an outright majority.

More than 7,000 people have applied to join the party even before its founding congress in Berlin yesterday, said Petry.

Political projection

“There is space for an anti-euro party in Germany,” said Oskar Niedermayer, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University. “So far this position hasn’t really been represented in the German party system.”

Underlining the potential appeal, a recent poll showed that even though 69 percent of Germans now back the euro - up from about 50 percent last year - a significant minority of 27 percent said they’d like to see a return to the mark. The survey of 1,003 people was conducted April 2-3 for the business daily Handelsblatt. Abandoning the euro currency would have significant costs, especially for Germany as a heavily export-oriented economy. According to analysts’ estimates, it could easily knock down the country’s annual output by a double digit percentage figure.