April 23, 2015 / 7:35 PM / 3 years ago

Senior member of German Eurosceptic AfD quits over shift to the right

BERLIN (Reuters) - A senior member of Germany’s Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) resigned from its board on Thursday, in protest at the up-and-coming party’s shift further to the right.

Hans-Olaf Henkel, a close ally of AfD founder Bernd Lucke, has quit the party’s main executive body due to attempts by “right-wing ideologues” to take over, he said in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung to be published on Friday.

While Henkel and Lucke want to establish the AfD as a serious alternative to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives by advocating liberal economic policies, more right-leaning members are calling for a tougher stance against foreigners and are flirting with an anti-Islam protest group based in Dresden.

The AfD entered the European Parliament with 7.1 percent of the German vote last year, on a platform of opposing euro zone bailouts. It has since won around 10 percent in three regional elections in the east, siphoning votes away from Merkel’s CDU and her erstwhile Free Democrat (FDP) allies.

Despite bitter public arguments inside the AfD over the party’s future course, it also managed to win around 6 percent in state elections in Hamburg in February, its first major success in western Germany, establishing it as a national force.

Henkel said the AfD would soon drift into insignificance if its leaders did not settle their differences about its political direction.

“The AfD would then fail. I firmly believe this,” Henkel told the newspaper.

Reporting by Hans-Edzard Busemann and Michael Nienaber; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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