German euroskeptic Lucke ′very grateful′ to Greece, Syriza | News | DW | 01.02.2015
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German euroskeptic Lucke 'very grateful' to Greece, Syriza

The euroskpetic AfD (Alternative for Germany) party has wrapped up its party conference in Bremen. Party founder Bernd Lucke finished by thanking Greece's new government for "showing things can't go on like this."

The founder of the AfD, Bernd Lucke, had the final word at the euroskeptic party's conference in Bremen on Sunday, choosing to thank the new leadership in Athens for bringing his party's main talking point back into focus.

Perhaps the new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras did seem like a "socialist hooligan" to most, Lucke said, but the AfD founder said he was personally "very grateful [to Tsipras] for standing up and showing these people in the eurozone that things simply can't continue like this."

Lucke even called for a write-down, or "haircut," on Greek debt during his speech in Bremen. However, he said that this write-down should be coupled with removing Greece from the 19-country eurozone.

Partei Alternative für Deutschland AfD

Three's a crowd at the top of the AfD leadership pyramid just now

In front of 1,700 delegates, Lucke pushed through plans on the weekend to reduce the party's three-person leadership to two, and then to a single party chairperson by December. Lucke's current co-leader Frauke Petry said during the congress that she would not stand against Lucke, and that she wanted to continue working with the party leadership.

Focus on 'trivialized, hush-hush' issues

The right-leaning AfD members agreed that the party should continue to focus on its criticism of the euro currency.

Lucke told public broadcaster ARD on the sidelines of the summit that criticism of the euro and changes to Germany's immigration, education, and social systems were "important topics, which have not been satisfactorily addressed by the old parties, which have been trivialized and hushed up."

The AfD won almost 5 percent of the vote in Germany's 2013 general elections, falling just short of the hurdle needed for parliamentary representation. Lucke and his team are aiming to break into the national parliament next time around, in 2017.

'The party has two wings'

Lucke, an economist and academic before entering politics, was seen as the winner on the weekend in Bremen, and the likely future leader of the party. But some unrest is fomenting in the AfD ranks.

"The party has two wings, which are now openly competing," Alexander Gauland, one of the party's leading figures, told ARD television.

"On the one side there is the euro-critical position and a liberalist economic policy stance, focused around Bernd Lucke," Gauland said, adding that national conservatives like him made up the other flank. The deputy party speaker, also state chair for the AfD in Brandenburg, said that he would have liked the AfD to consider an alliance with PEGIDA and other similar groups opposing what they call the "Islamization" of Germany.

Deutschland PEGIDA Demonstration in Dresden Alexander Gauland AfD

Gauland's appearance at a December PEGIDA march in Dresden raised eyebrows

Gauland said that he considered the PEGIDA group to be "natural allies" for a political party that currently has no such allies in the German Bundestag, but said that he had expected Lucke's camp to prevail in Bremen, thanks to "the developments in Greece and that whole circus."

In Bremen, several thousand people on Saturday took to the streets to show their displeasure at AfD's presence - in a manner similar to the counter-demonstrations that have frequently dwarved the PEGIDA-inspired anti-Islamization marches staged in several German cities in recent months.

AfD members will be asked to vote for two party leaders at their next congress in April. Subsequently, in December, whichever single candidate wins the most votes in April will then assume solo leadership of the party.

msh/bk (dpa, Reuters)

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