Bavaria’s Free Voters party, which wants Greek debt to be cut to zero and the drachma reintroduced, is ratcheting up pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partner to take a more euro-skeptic view.
The Free Voters oppose Europe’s bailout funds and became the first German parliamentary party to lodge a legal complaint against them in the nation’s highest court. The Federal Constitutional Court will announce its ruling on Sept. 12.
“We need a massive debt cut” in Greece “to zero,” Hubert Aiwanger, the Free Voters’ leader, said today at a news conference in Berlin. “To give this country a fresh start, the drachma will at the least have to run parallel to the euro.”
The Free Voters won 10.2 percent in Bavaria’s last state election in 2008 and the party, seeking re-election there in 2013, may siphon enough votes from the Christian Social Union, Merkel’s Bavarian sister party and national coalition partner, to become king-maker in the state that’s home to Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Siemens AG. Free Voters are strong at the local level and supply about 600 of the state’s 2,100 mayors.
The latest polls show the Free Voters at 8 percent to 9 percent in Bavaria, with party leaders saying they’d form a government with either the opposition Social Democrats or the ruling CSU.
The Free Voters also plan to run for the first time in federal elections in fall 2013. The party says polls show it at 2 percent nationally with as many as 25 percent of voters saying they’d at least consider backing the Free Voters.
“The potential is there -- I wouldn’t rule out that they make it in the long run,” Manfred Guellner, head of the Berlin-based Forsa polling company, said in a telephone interview.
Just 27 percent of Germans surveyed in a Financial Times/Harris poll published on Sept. 3 believe Greece should remain in the euro area, compared with 54 percent who said it should leave.
Public anger over Greek aid and the Free Voter alternative have prompted the CSU to toughen its rhetoric on the euro, upping the pressure on Merkel.
Bavaria’s CSU Finance Minister Markus Soeder told Bild newspaper in an Aug. 5 interview that Greece should be cut loose for the greater good of the euro area. “There’s an old mountain-climbing rule,” he was cited as saying. “If somebody hanging on your line threatens to knock you to the ground, the line has to be cut.”
Alexander Dobrindt, the CSU’s general secretary and a federal lawmaker in Berlin, followed up by taking a shot at European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, telling Bild am Sonntag that the central bank chief was “making the ECB into an inflation bank” and risked going down in history as “the money forger of Europe.”
Aiwanger said if his party enters the Bundestag in Berlin next year, he’d be willing to form a coalition with Merkel, whom he said “will soon be overtaken by reality and won’t have any other choice” regarding Greece’s euro exit.
“She might be happy if we helped her out of this ghetto,” he said. “No euro-area bailouts is the central theme for us.”