With Greece’s membership in the euro zone in question after the country’s voters resoundingly rejected further austerity measures on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has seen her euro policy reduced to shambles.
Though a growing chorus of German voices is now calling for Greece to leave the currency union, Ms. Merkel need not fear much of a domestic political challenge, as the country’s leading euroskeptic party has descended into internecine fighting following a lurch to the right last weekend.
The upstart party Alternative for Germany (AfD) was founded a few years ago amid German opposition to bailing out supposedly spendthrift euro-zone countries such as Greece. But the emergence of a party to the ideological right of Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats also quickly became a new home for many right-wing populists with xenophobic tendencies.
Now, instead of trying to capitalize on the current chaos in the currency union, the party has been effectively dismembering itself in a brutal leadership struggle.
Frauke Petry, a right-wing populist, won the battle for the AfD’s heart and soul at a party congress in the industrial German city of Essen, ousting chairman and co-founder Bernd Lucke by a wide margin. Afterwards, many of Mr. Lucke’s fellow fiscal conservatives and euroskeptics announced they would leave the party.
“The party has chosen a sharply far-right course of vulgarity, protest and the promotion of prejudice,” Hans-Olaf Henkel, an AfD member of the European Parliament and former head of the BDI Federation of German Industry, told Handelsblatt.
Though Mr. Henkel confirmed he was renouncing his AfD membership, ex-chairman Mr. Lucke, an economics professor, initially said on Tuesday that he would take time before making any such decision. “I won’t make a kneejerk reaction.”
Mr. Lucke then said in a statement Wednesday that “the party has fallen irretrievably into the wrong hands.” He also confirmed that he would, in fact, be leaving the party. German news agency dpa reported that he said he still had not decided whether or not to found a new party.