German anti-euro party scraps congress amid infighting

AP News
Posted: Jun 02, 2015 7:33 AM
German anti-euro party scraps congress amid infighting

BERLIN (AP) — An upstart German party that combines an anti-euro stance with tough talk on immigration has become mired in infighting over its leadership and future course, and on Tuesday called off a congress that was to be held this month.

Alternative for Germany, founded two years ago and known by its German acronym AfD, won seats in the European Parliament last year and entered five state legislatures in regional elections over recent months.

It initially focused on talk of ending the euro currency in its current form, but many members increasingly have centered their pitch around tough talk about immigration and crime.

That has been accompanied by public backbiting among its leaders. Bernd Lucke, an economics professor who has been AfD's most prominent face and who advocates concentrating on economic issues, faces rivals who prefer focusing on immigration and a socially conservative stance. Earlier this year, they differed over whether the party should embrace supporters of the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement.

Those differences have been exacerbated by personal animosity, particularly between Lucke and co-leader Frauke Petry, an ideological opponent. Deputy party leader Alexander Gauland recently said that the party "needs the liberal wing, but without Bernd Lucke."

Amid speculation that he might leave AfD, Lucke last month launched a group within the party called "Wake-Up Call 2015." Its platform argues AfD can't be successful if senior members "want to integrate radical forces" and says the party needs a "sensible, respectable and tolerant" majority.

The battle was expected to come to a head at a congress planned June 13-14. However, AfD spokesman Christian Lueth said Tuesday that the leadership decided to call off the congress because of "legal concerns" following disputes over elections of delegates. It is mulling scheduling a new meeting later in June.

It remains to be seen whether AfD can establish itself as a long-term threat to established parties, particularly Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives. Recent national polls have put its support around the 5 percent needed to enter Parliament.