• Anti-immigration party says it favors Mittelstand companies
  • Party doesn't lack business expertise, co-leader says

The anti-euro Alternative for Germany rejected criticism by a leading industry group that the party doesn’t understand business, saying it simply favors small and mid-size companies over global corporations.

Party co-leader Frauke Petry sought to suggest that the German government favors multinationals and lashed out at Ulrich Grillo, head of Germany’s BDI industry federation, after Alternative for Germany, or AfD, took 15 percent of the vote in Baden-Wuerttemberg in state elections Sunday. The southwestern state is one of Germany’s export champions and has the nation’s lowest unemployment.

“We do have competence in business matters,” Petry said at a news conference in Berlin. “We just don’t position ourselves in such a one-sided way as the federal government in favor of the large, multinational companies. We want to strengthen the real backbone of the German economy.”

Grillo said earlier Monday in a statement that the AfD, which campaigns against immigration, is a “backward-minded” protest party that has no competence on real-world issues. The strength of extremist parties such as the AfD and the anti-capitalist Left risks scaring off investors, he said. That warning is based on a “myth” about the AfD’s positions, party co-leader Joerg Meuthen, who was the party’s lead candidate in Baden-Wuerttemberg, said at the news conference.

Founded three years ago, the AfD has shaken up Germany’s political system with demands including the use of armed force to keep illegal migrants out and some regional party leaders using expressions reminiscent of Nazi party slogans. After three regional elections Sunday, the party has seats in half of Germany’s 16 regional assemblies and the European Parliament, though not in the national parliament in Berlin. It says it doesn’t want to join state governments, preferring to criticize established parties from the opposition bench.

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