When the AfD was founded two years ago, the party struck a chord with entrepreneurs and people who run their own businesses. The organization of family businesses, for example, invited its founder, Bernd Lucke, to a discussion on issues.
Back then, it was primarily a protest party against the euro-rescue politics of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Heinrich Weiss, former chair of the BDI German industry federation and major shareholder of the SMS industry group, even identified with the new party. He called the AfD an alternative to Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the “socialist line” of their coalition partner, the left-leaning Social Democrats.
The AfD rose in parallel with the decline of Germany’s classic liberals, the Free Democratic Party. Along the way, it was helped by its appeal to right-wing populists who support dissolution of the euro zone and oppose immigration policies.
Today, however, that association and the inner turmoil is hurting the AfD among business leaders like Mr. Weiss, who are keeping the party at a distance.
“It is a tragedy how the AfD has been taking itself apart for weeks,” Mr. Weiss told Handelsblatt. “While the Greece crisis is escalating, the AfD should have aggressively presented euro criticism as its core message. Now the FDP and AfD must clearly assert themselves and draw a line with all right-wing elements.”