Anti-euro party strong in German state votes

AP News
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Posted: Sep 14, 2014 4:49 PM
Anti-euro party strong in German state votes

BERLIN (AP) — A new party that has expanded its anti-euro stance into a broader appeal to protest voters won seats in two more German state legislatures Sunday, building on recent momentum and intensifying a headache for established parties.

The Alternative for Germany, or AfD, party won 10.6 percent of the vote in eastern Thuringia state and 12.2 percent in Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin.

"We're glad that people have voted for a political renewal in our country," leader Bernd Lucke said.

AfD fell narrowly short of the 5 percent support needed to enter Germany's national parliament last year. Since then, it has won seats in the European Parliament and, two weeks ago, its first seats in a state parliament in eastern Saxony.

Other parties say they won't govern with AfD, which advocates scrapping the euro in its current form. It has developed a socially conservative image, but also has appealed to protest voters of all shades with tough talk on crime and immigration.

Sunday's result left unclear who would govern Thuringia. The opposition Left Party, which has ex-communist roots, hoped to install its first state governor and end the 24-year reign over the region of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

Merkel's Christian Democrats were the strongest party, but with 33.5 percent support well short of a majority. Conservative governor Christine Lieberknecht hoped to continue an alliance with the center-left Social Democrats, the same combination that runs Germany.

The Social Democrats, however, had raised the possibility of serving in a three-party coalition under the Left Party's Bodo Ramelow, whose party finished second with 28.2 percent. They lost around a third of their support, polling just 12.4 percent.

Both the outgoing state government and Ramelow's hoped-for left-wing alliance would have only a one-seat majority.

Voters didn't appreciate the lack of clarity about who the Social Democrats would ally with, party leader and vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel conceded.

Gabriel added that established parties need to "deal more offensively" with AfD. "It's a job-killing program that they have," he told ARD television.

In Brandenburg, the Social Democrats have long dominated and won again Sunday. The Left Party is their junior coalition partner there; they could continue that alliance or switch to Merkel's party.

Turnout was low in both states, a factor that may have boosted AfD's strength.