Germany's anti-euro party agrees to slim down leadership

1st February 2015, Comments 0 comments

A congress of Germany's anti-euro AfD party ending Sunday moved to streamline its leadership structure in a bid to be more effective after weeks of dispute within the fledgling group.

Bernd Lucke, founder of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), won broad backing on Saturday from the around 1,700 party faithful gathered in the northwestern city of Bremen for his proposal that one leader head the party instead of three, which he called "amateurish".

The former economics professor said the pared-down structure would help make things more professional, telling delegates the two-year-old party was "not a skittles club or rabbit breeding association, which one can lead part-time".

He also hailed the victory of Greece's hard-left Syriza party and its new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, to whom Lucke described himself as being "very grateful for having stood up to show everyone in the EU that things simply can't continue as they are."

The AfD leader also voiced support for the renegotiation -- or complete forgiveness -- of Greece's massive debt, saying "there was no other solution" that will allow the country escape its crushing indebtedness.

Lucke, the AfD's highest profile figure, faces criticism within the party for allegedly trying to extend his power through the structural reform, which will involve a tandem of two leaders dropping to a single party chief in December.

The AfD's main battle cry when it was founded in early 2013 in the wake of financial turbulence that almost brought the eurozone to its knees was for an orderly dissolution of the euro.

It narrowly missed entering the German parliament in 2013 general election.

But it made a breakthrough last year by winning seats in the European Parliament, followed by three German state assemblies after the party sought to widen its appeal by incorporating populist issues such as law and order, immigration and traditional social values.

It now hopes to enter Hamburg's city-state assembly in a February 15 vote.

The party, which invited experts to the Bremen conference to speak on tax, social and health issues, plans to finalise its programme of policies in November.

But Lucke made clear he wanted to position the party, which analysts say is made up of three factions -- neo-liberal, national conservative and a hard-right populist wing -- in the political centre.

He also supported the call by Greece's new anti-austerity government for a debt write-down, saying on Sunday that there was "no way around it" but that Athens must quit the eurozone in return.

© 2015 AFP

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