Power struggle rips open in Germany's eurosceptic AfD party

Merkel's conservatives, concerned about the rise of a party that attracts far-right voters and siphons off some of its support, have been hoping the movement will self-destruct.

Power struggle rips open in Germany's eurosceptic AfD party

World Bulletin/News Desk

A power struggle over the direction of upstart eurosceptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD) burst into the open on Saturday when a group of deputy leaders attacked its founder Bernd Lucke and his plans to take sole control of the party.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, concerned about the rise of a party that attracts far-right voters and siphons off some of its support, have been hoping the movement will self-destruct.

In a letter obtained by Reuters, five senior party figures told Lucke they were alarmed by his plans, denounced his "despot-like style of leadership" and summoned him to a meeting.

It was the latest sign of strife in the party that has shaken up German politics, winning seats in the European Parliament and three German state assemblies, and has been hovering around 7 percent in most national opinion polls.

The AfD, which first gained popularity with its opposition to bailouts for indebted euro zone countries, has also adopted an anti-immigrant stance. But party leaders are divided about those two directions.

Lucke, who founded the party in 2013, is keen to avoid a drift further to the right, while co-chairs Frauke Petry and Konrad Adam are eager to see the AfD open up more to voters from the far right.

"We're writing to you because we're worried about party unity," Petry, Adam and others told Lucke. "It is no longer only 'your' party as you keep calling it, but a party of thousands. We want you to be ... one of three equal leaders."

Lucke had no comment on the letter, his spokesman Christian Lueth told Reuters, because he is on holiday. "Even if I had seen it, I would still not comment on its contents because it is an internal party matter," Lucke said in a statement via Lueth.

Ahead of a party congress set for Jan. 31, Lucke had called upon regional AfD leaders to meet him to discuss his plans to change the party's charter to allow him to lead on his own. Petry and the deputies denounced that as a unilateral and menacing move.

"You're not going to build confidence with threats," Petry and her allies wrote to Lucke. "How effective can a threat like that be if it comes from a chairman acting on his own?"

One of the signatories was Alexander Gauland, party leader in the eastern state of Brandenburg, who recently caused a stir by calling Lucke "a control freak...(who) wants to control every detail."

Last Mod: 03 Ocak 2015, 16:06
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