A founding member of the euroskeptic party Alternative for Germany, who was ousted from the leadership, has launched a new rival group. Fiscal conservative Bernd Lucke says his old party has fallen into the wrong hands.
Bernd Lucke, who quit Alternative for Germany (AfD) over perceived increasingly xenophobic views, said his new party would be based on AfD's founding principles.
Members of Lucke's Wake Up Call 2015, a splinter group of the AfD that was formed in May, met in Kassel on Sunday to consider the establishment of a new party. Lucke said a group of 70 supporters had backed the idea of the new party, to be known as the "Alliance for Progress and Renewal" - ALFA by its German abbreviation.
The 55-year-old economics professor had been engaged in a bitter power struggle with businesswoman Frauke Petry, who headed a national conservative faction within the AfD. He was ousted from his leadership role earlier this month and subsequently left the party, complaining that Islamophobic and xenophobic views were becoming too prevalent.
"The party has fallen irretrievably into the wrong hands," Lucke said, of AfD's new direction.
Support for PEGIDA
Petry, who easily won the backing of the party membership to take over as leader, has lent her support to the anti-Islam, anti-immigration position of the German movement known as PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West). Lucke had wanted to focus more on economic issues, although he has also said he believes immigration is a problem for Germany.
Lucke, who was elected chairman of the new party on Sunday, said on Twitter that more than 5,000 people had already registered their interest in ALFA, which is setting its sights on the 2017 general election.
Founded in early 2013, AfD won seven seats in the European Parliament in 2014, followed by representation in five German state assemblies. Under Lucke, it had only narrowly failed in the 2013 general election to gain the 5 percent of the vote needed for representation in the German lower house, the Bundestag.
rc/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)