ONE in four Germans would vote for a party that wants to quit the euro in September’s federal election, according to a new opinion poll that highlights German unease over the costs of the eurozone crisis.
The country’s mainstream parties remain solidly pro-euro despite grumbling over costly bailouts of Greece and other countries. A German taboo on nationalism, rooted in atonement for the crimes of the Nazi era, has helped to muffle eurosceptic voices.
But a poll conducted by TNS-Emnid for weekly magazine Focus and published today showed 26 per cent of Germans would consider backing a party that wanted to take Germany out of the euro. As many as four in ten in the 40-49 age bracket would do so.
The survey coincides with the launch of a new party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), that calls the euro a “fatal mistake”.
AfD and other German critics of the euro say it is unfair and undemocratic to expect Germany to bear the costs of other countries’ economic mistakes, and there are calls for a return to the deutschmark. “Every people should be able democratically to decide its own currency,” the AfD says on its website.
Emnid chief Klaus-Peter Schoeppner said the results were partly a signal from conservative supporters of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition that they expected a strong defence of German interests in Europe and would not accept any moves towards “euro bonds”, a sharing of liability for eurozone debt.
“There is scope in Germany for a protest party to win two or 3 per cent support, but it would be very difficult for it to enter parliament,” he said, adding that much would depend on the wider economic situation.
A political party needs to win a minimum of 5 per cent to get seats in Germany’s Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.
Previous eurosceptic parties in Germany have made little headway. One of them, the “Free Voters”, has won seats in Bavaria’s regional assembly but has yet to win support at national level.
Despite the eurozone crisis, which has pitched southern Europe into deep recession, Germany, the region’s largest economy, is faring relatively well – exports to non-European markets are booming and unemployment is near two-decade lows.
The AfD, comprising mostly academics and business people, was due to hold its first meeting last night in a suburb of Frankfurt. A message on the front page of its website says: “Let’s put an end to this euro!”
And it says: “The introduction of the euro was a fatal mistake that is threatening our prosperity. The old parties are grizzled and worn out. They are stubbornly refusing to admit their mistake and correct it.”
The AfD said the European Central Bank should not be allowed to buy up the debt of struggling eurozone members. It fears this could stoke inflation that will destroy the value of Germans’ savings.
Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, said AfD was unlikely to gather much momentum because it was effectively a single-issue party and Germans had more pressing concerns than the fate of the euro.
He said: “Most of those who talk about the dangers of the euro and long for a return to the deutschmark will still vote conservative in the end. They believe Merkel will protect them; they feel safer with her than voting for a new party.”
Merkel’s conservatives are tipped to win most votes in the September election, helped partly by her tough stance on eurozone bailouts and insistence that heavily indebted countries embrace harsh austerity measures.
The main opposition centre-left Social Democrats and Greens have broadly backed Ms Merkel’s efforts to tackle the euro crisis.