German Euro Skeptics Gain Ex-IBM Europe Chief Before EU Election

Germany’s anti-euro AfD party is set to announce the candidacy of Hans-Olaf Henkel, a former European chief for International Business Machines Corp (IBM), in a coup that might help broaden its appeal in European Parliament elections.

The Alternative for Germany, or AfD in German, took 4.7 percent in September’s federal elections to narrowly miss out on seats in the country’s lower house of parliament. Presenting Henkel in Berlin today may help the party to clear the 3 percent hurdle in May’s European elections to gain its first legislative seats.

“The fact the AfD is still there, despite the euro crisis having taken a back seat, shows that a large number of AfD supporters aren’t just euro skeptics, but that the AfD taps into a pool of right-wing voters,” Manfred Guellner, who heads the pollster Forsa, said in an interview. That makes it “more than likely” the AfD will enter the European Parliament.

The AfD’s failure to win Bundestag seats last year bucked a trend that has seen anti-European parties gain support in countries from the U.K. to Greece, raising the prospect of a shift in power in the 766-seat European Parliament. By contrast, German support for the European Union rose to a record in a poll last week.

While the AfD opposes the euro and advocates Greece’s exit from the 18-nation single currency, it is not expressly anti-EU. AfD leader Bernd Lucke has said he won’t ally with parties such as France’s Front National and Dutchman Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom, which have said they may form an anti-EU bloc. Lucke is due to hold a press briefing at 2 p.m. in Berlin.

AfD delegates will vote on the party’s list of candidates for the European elections at a Jan. 25 convention in the southern town of Aschaffenburg. Polls suggest the AfD would take about 5 percent if elections were held now.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rainer Buergin in Berlin at rbuergin1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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