Alternative for Germany

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Right-Wing Populists Eye German State Elections as Springboard to National Power

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Bernd Lucke, who leads the party "Alternative for Germany," speaking at a press conference in Berlin in July.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Political success for Alternative for Germany could force Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats shift to the right and make Berlin more skeptical toward Europe’s single currency, the euro.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • AfD leader Bernd Lucke has a seat in the European Parliament, but his real goal is growing and consolidating power in Germany.
    • The party has positioned itself to the right of the Christian Democratic Union with calls for stronger border protections and an end to gender-based quotas.
    • The euroskeptic party likens itself to Britain’s Conservatives on European issues rather than UKIP.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Bernd Lucke likes to lecture audiences for hours on end.

That’s what he used to do in his old job as economics professor at Hamburg University and, later, on his tours through Germany during the European Parliament election campaign. Now, the leader of the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany, or AfD by its German acronym, is just one of 751 members of the European Parliament and his speeches are limited by parliamentary rules to just two minutes.

He looks somewhat lost among all the black armchairs in this huge chamber, which is plunked on the edge of Strasbourg like an over-sized egg. It’s the middle of July and he is making one of his first appearances on the European stage discussing youth unemployment. “The (European) Commission is closing its eyes to the fact that it is the single European currency which is ruining the future perspectives of young people,” Mr. Lucke said.

This won’t be the last time parliamentarians in Brussels and Strasbourg will be hearing statements like that.

A common currency and the problems associated with its creation were the motivation for Mr. Lucke to form his euroskeptic party in 2013. The 51-year-old and his six AfD colleagues in the European Parliament demand countries such as Italy and Greece be allowed to leave the currency union. Driven by the party’s constant criticism of the euro, the AfD narrowly missed gaining a foothold in the Bundestag, the German constitutional and legislative body, in the 2013 elections, but in May this year, it secured seats in the parliament after winning 7 percent of the vote.

Mr. Lucke now seeks to duplicate that success in German state elections.

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