November 19, 2014 / 5:03 PM / 4 years ago

Strife racks Germany's Eurosceptic AfD despite popularity

BERLIN (Reuters) - A deputy to the leader of Germany’s upstart Eurosceptic party Alternative for Germany criticized him on Wednesday as a “control freak” bent on rooting out AfD members who disagree with him.

Alexander Gauland, top candidate of Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in the state of Brandenburg, speaks during a news conference in the Bundespressekonferenz in Berlin September 15, 2014. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

It was a further sign of turmoil in a party that has altered German politics, winning seats in the European Parliament in May and mandates in three German state assemblies - its first - with 10 percent or more of the vote two months ago.

Despite its surging popularity among voters attracted in part by its opposition to euro zone bailouts - the AfD commanded 7 percent nationwide support in an Allensbach poll out on Wednesday, the party has been beset by internal squabbling.

Alexander Gauland, one of AfD chief Bernd Lucke’s three deputies nationwide who heads the far-right party in the eastern state of Brandenburg, said he was alarmed by Lucke’s attempts to run everything himself.

The AfD was founded in 2013 to oppose euro zone bailouts and won seats in the European Parliament in May. It took its first seats in German state assemblies two months ago, beating forecasts to win 10 percent or more of votes in the eastern states of Brandenburg, Thuringia and Saxony.

“Lucke is a control freak,” Gauland told the weekly newspaper Die Zeit. “He wants to control every detail, even in the smallest state federation.”

Lucke rejected Gauland’s criticism and said he would address it in detail at a party congress on Jan. 31. “Alexander Gauland’s behavior leaves me speechless,” Lucke told Reuters.

Last month four AfD leaders in the city state of Hamburg resigned in protest over a lack of party democracy - an untimely blow to its campaign in a state election set for Feb. 15.

Earlier this month, another AfD leader, Hans-Olaf Henkel, said he was ashamed about certain members of the party.

“We’ve got some unreasonable, indecent and intolerant people in our ranks,” he told Der Spiegel news magazine. Henkel later told Die Zeit: “You sit there at a party congress and hear these wild conspiracy theories. I want to hide in shame.”

Editing by Stephen Brown and Mark Heinrich

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