Germany's eurosceptic Alternative for Germany
Germany's eurosceptic Alternative for Germany

Germany’s eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) on Monday launched a challenge to the banking union endorsed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives after the newcomer party enjoyed a surge in support in state elections over the weekend.

Germany's eurosceptic Alternative for Germany
Germany’s eurosceptic Alternative for Germany

“There are massive problems in Europe’s banking system,” declared AfD chief Bernd Lucke in Berlin, saying his party planned to stop the European Union’s proposed banking union, which forms a key part of its efforts to resolve the long-running euro debt crisis.

The European banks’ debts were three times the size of the bloc’s overall public debt, which is a major threat to German savers, Lucke told an AfD press conference in Berlin.

Merkel on Monday once again ruled out an alliance with the AfD after the right-wing populist party seized a better-than-expected 10.6 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s elections in Thuringia and 12.2 per cent in Brandenburg.

The scale of the AfD’s success in the two eastern German states set alarm bells ringing across the national political party establishment as well as sparking new tensions in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU).

The AfD’s sudden rise prompted the CDU’s right-wing conservative arm – known as the Berlin circle – to call on the party’s leadership to change its approach to the AfD and to reach out to its voters.

But Merkel told a press conference in Berlin: “Good government policies and problem solving” are the best ways to counter the AfD’s success.

The AfD’s election outcome in Thuringia and Brandenburg marked the second time in as many weeks that the AfD has rocked the boat in a state election.

The party also drew votes away from the major political parties as well as parties on the hard left and extreme right to score a higher-than-projected 10 per cent of the vote in the Saxon election at the end of August.

“We stand for a transformation of the German political system,” said Bjorne Hoecke, who spearheaded the AfD campaign in Thuringia.

The three elections have altered the political landscape in Thuringia, Brandenburg and Saxony, with negotiations now underway in all three states to forge new coalitions after support gravitated towards the AfD.

“It is true that the AfD is fishing in all waters,” said a senior SPD leader, Thomas Oppermann.

“It is a challenge for all parties to ensure that there is no party like the AfD on the rightwing of this society,” he said.

The AfD only narrowly missed out on gaining seats in the Federal Parliament at last September’s national elections before going on to secure representation in the European Parliament at May’s European poll.

Now, the AfD hopes to build on its recent string of successes to enter the parliaments in the states of Hamburg and Bremen at elections set down for early next year.

Founded in April last year, the AfD quickly gained political momentum as a result of the anger among many voters about Merkel’s decision to help bail out cash-strapped southern European states such as Greece, Ireland and Spain.

Since then, however, it has sought to broaden its electoral appeal by focusing on issues such as immigration, law and order and the proposed banking union.

GNA

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