BERLIN (Reuters) – One in four Germans would be ready to vote in September’s federal election for a party that wants to quit the euro, according to an opinion poll published on Monday that highlights German unease over the costs of the euro zone crisis.
Germany’s mainstream parties remain solidly pro-euro despite grumbling over bailouts of countries such as Greece. A German taboo on nationalism, rooted in atonement for the crimes of the Nazi era, has helped to muffle eurosceptic voices.
But the poll conducted by TNS-Emnid for the weekly Focus magazine showed 26 percent of Germans would consider backing a party that wanted to take Germany out of the euro and as many as four in 10 Germans in the 40-49 age bracket would do so.
“This suggests there may be potential here for a new protest party,” Emnid chief Klaus Peter Schoeppner told Focus.
The survey canvassed the views of a representative sample of 1,007 people on March 6-7.
A new eurosceptic movement called ‘Alternative for Germany’ (AfD) comprising mostly academics and business people is due to hold its first meeting later on Monday in a northern suburb of Frankfurt.
One of its founders, economics professor Bernd Lucke, told Focus he had no concern that it would be able to raise the required 2,000 signatures in each German region to take part in September’s federal election.
AfD’s website www.alternativefuer.de has been live since late last week and its Twitter account (@wahlalternativ1) counts 690 followers.
“Let’s put an end to this euro!” is the message on the front page of its website.
“The Federal Republic of Germany is in the deepest crisis in its history. 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,” it said.
Previous eurosceptic parties in Germany have made little headway. One of them, the ‘Free Voters’, have won seats in Bavaria’s regional assembly but have yet to win support at the national level.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives are tipped to win most votes in the September election, helped partly by her tough stance on euro zone bailouts and her insistence that heavily indebted countries embrace harsh austerity measures.
Mainstream criticism of the euro project has been largely confined to dissenting voices in the centre-right government, especially in the pro-business Free Democrats, the junior coalition partner, and in the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavaria-based sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
The main opposition centre-left Social Democrats and Greens have broadly backed Merkel’s efforts to tackle the euro crisis.
The euro zone crisis has featured less on the front pages of German newspapers since the European Central Bank vowed last summer to buy up unlimited quantities of sovereign debt if necessary – in return for strictly binding austerity commitments – to save the common currency.
But many Germans, including at the Bundesbank, are deeply uncomfortable with this ECB pledge and last month’s inconclusive election in Italy, where anti-austerity parties performed well, has reminded Germans that the crisis is far from over.
(Reporting by Gareth Jones- Editing by Noah Barkin)