A eurosceptic implosion

Germany

 

The crisis affecting Europe’s single currency has been a boon to Eurosceptic parties across the continent, as voters have become disenchanted with the way the European Union is run. Even Germany, which has long been among the most enthusiastic supporters of European integration, saw an anti-EU party grow in strength, as the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) captured seats in state legislatures and the European Parliament. Just as the euro zone’s crisis reaches its climax, however, the AfD has fallen apart in the most spectacular fashion, with much of its leadership and thousands of its members walking out. A poll in yesterday’s Bild am Sonntag put the party at just 3 per cent, its lowest level for almost two years and less than half the 7 per cent it won in last year’s European elections, when it won seven of Germany’s 96 seats.

Founded in 2013 by a group of economists, business leaders and journalists opposed to the euro, the AfD is in some ways a victim of its own success. Its success in the European Parliament elections, when the party outpolled Angela Merkel’s former coalition partners in the Liberal Free Democrats, was followed by strong performances in state elections, winning seats in Saxony, Hamburg and Bremen.

As the AfD grew in strength, it found a new reservoir of support among right-wingers opposed to immigration and hostile to minorities, particularly Muslims, including many who took part in anti-Muslim marches organised by the far-right group Pegida last year. Tensions between the economically liberal wing of the leadership and the party’s authoritarian right boiled over earlier this month when the AfD ousted businessman Bernd Lucke as leader, replacing him with a more right-wing easterner, Frauke Petry.

Petry hopes to emulate the success of Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France by shifting the AfD’s focus away from the euro towards immigration and Islam and expressing support for Russia. Far-right parties in post-war Germany have tended to flicker briefly before crashing and burning. It is to be hoped that Petry’s is no exception.

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