German Anti-Euro Party Courts CDU Donors in Challenge to Merkel

Chancellor Angela Merkel faces a fresh challenge five months before national elections as an anti-euro party seeks to draw support from donors including those close to her Christian Democratic Union party.

The Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, has raised about 600,000 euros ($784,000) from new members and plans to seek donations from Germany’s business community, the party’s treasurer, Norbert Stenzel, said today in an interview. Stenzel, who was a member of the CDU’s business wing as well as the Chamber of Commerce, said he’ll use his industry contacts to seek support for AfD’s agenda to scrap the single currency.

“I have contacts with all kinds of people” in the business world, Stenzel, the managing director of Wetterauer Lieferbeton, a Hesse concrete producer who was a CDU member for over 30 years until late 2012, said by phone from Bad Nauheim, north of Frankfurt. “The resonance has been very good so far.”

Merkel will need to guard her flank as members of her party grow weary of the three-year-old euro debt crisis. While polls suggest she may win a third term, Merkel was still only able to pass aid for Cyprus in the German parliament last week with the help of opposition votes.

The AfD, formed earlier this month, urges “dissolution of the euro area in its current form” and says it aims for at least 10 percent of the vote in the Sept. 22 elections.

The new party’s fundraising drive was first reported in Der Spiegel. Stenzel, 65, said a six-person team is still planning a possible mail campaign or direct letters to potential donors.

CDU Contacts

The AfD treasurer said he had no plans to raid the contact list of the CDU business wing, the Wirtschaftsrat, though he noted that such information was available to everybody. The Wirtschaftsrat, headed by CDU party member Kurt Lauk, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.

The fundraising drive will rely on individual donations, Stenzel said. The highest single donation so far was 5,000 euros, he said.

Germany’s government and coalition parties denounced the new political grouping last week, with Merkel’s chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert, condemning a “go-it-alone mentality.”

Bernd Lucke, an economics professor at Hamburg University and party leader for AfD, says Germany doesn’t need the euro and called for a system of parallel currency to ease euro members out of the bloc.

“What we’re seeking is the dissolution of the euro currency area, mainly through an exit of the southern countries from the euro, in an orderly, gentle fashion over several years,” Lucke told ZDF television last week. Lucke was a member of Merkel’s CDU for 33 years.

Austerity Criticism

The chancellor needs to maintain her lead in the polls amid criticism of her adherence to austerity as the euro area faces a second year of recession and record unemployment.

The AfD polled at 3 percent in an Infratest-Dimap survey taken April 16-17 and released yesterday, below the 5 percent threshold to win parliamentary seats. Merkel’s CDU-led bloc topped the weekly poll, losing a percentage point to 41 percent, with her Free Democratic Party allies at 4 percent. The main opposition Social Democrats took 27 percent in the poll of 1,000 potential voters, unchanged from the previous week. The opposition Green party garnered 14 percent support, down a point.

Infratest earlier this month identified a potential wellspring of support for AfD, with 24 percent of respondents saying that they “could imagine” voting for the newcomer.

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