Friday, May 17, 2013

Europe waits as Angela Merkel faces a new anti-establishment party

WHEN a German newspaper in January headlined the success of populists across Europe and their absence in Germany, Frauke Petry thought: “We are here, but nobody sees us yet.” Two months later the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which calls for the euro to be broken up, started making news. These days its leaders (Ms Petry is one of a triumvirate) are on television talk-shows. Euroscepticism, or at least scepticism of the euro, has a voice. Germany’s Christian Democrats have for decades seen off all foes on the right. This is a worrying new one.

AfD is a strange group of rebels. It is a movement mainly of professors, not revolutionary students. Its policies have seemingly little in common with Eurosceptics elsewhere. Unlike Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party, it wants to stay in the European Union. Unlike Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party in the Netherlands, its driving force is not resentment of Muslims and immigrants. Unlike Beppe Grillo’s Five Stars Movement in Italy, it does not seek to smash a corrupt political class. And unlike radicals of all stripes in France, Germany’s new sceptics embrace markets and liberalism. “They cannot call us crazy,” says Ms Petry.