Merkel helped by split in Eurosceptic AfD

Past few weeks marked by increasingly bitter feuding within Alternative für Deutschland

AfD leader Bernd Lucke  and co-spokeswoman Frauke Petry. Photograph:  Thomas Lohnes/Getty

AfD leader Bernd Lucke and co-spokeswoman Frauke Petry. Photograph: Thomas Lohnes/Getty

 

As the Greek debt crisis goes into extra time, the only consolation for German chancellor Angela Merkel is that her most vociferous bailout critics at home are in meltdown.

Two groups within the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party are locked in battle for control of the party, founded in 2013 as a Eurosceptic alternative to Germany’s mainstream parties.

From the start the AfD was a vocal critic of the EU’s bailout strategy and its European Stability Mechanism (ESM) bailout fund. It just missed reaching the 5 per cent electoral support it required to enter the Bundestag in the 2013 federal election.

Since then the party has entered five state parliaments and the European Parliament. But the success has now been superseded by bitter feuding, with the economic liberal camp around AfD founder Bernd Lucke facing a growing challenge from a conservative wing headed by the Saxony AfD leader, Frauke Petry.

The Petry camp believes that the AfD’s future lies in broadening its appeal by adopting conservative positions on law and order, immigration, cross-border crime and German identity.

Counter-movement

“The fundamental attitudes of these two groups are irreconcilable,” said Lucke, attacking the “anti-capitalist, German nationalist, anti-Islamic and anti-immigration forces” in Petry’s Saxon camp.

Petry and her allies, meanwhile, say they are frustrated by Lucke’s narrow focus on economic issues and by a dictatorial style they say is damaging the party.

Bitter feuding

Konrad Adam

Earlier this week, meanwhile, a party arbitration body ordered Lucke to dissolve his Wake-up Call 2015 grouping. While he has refused to accept the ruling, Petry was jubilant.

With party unity now in doubt, Petry departed on a fact-finding mission to Greece on Wednesday without informing her co-leader.

“For far too long we’ve only dealt with Greece from the desk,” she wrote in an email swipe at Lucke, an economics professor.

He hit back at her in a reply, mocking her failure to secure meetings with high-level partners on her trip.

For now there’s no end in sight for the standoff over how broad or narrow a policy platform the AfD needs to remain a long-term player in Germany’s political spectrum.