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Founder of Germany's anti-euro AfD quits party

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(BERLIN) - Co-founder and former frontman of Germany's anti-euro Alternative for Germany (AfD), Bernd Lucke, announced Wednesday he was leaving the party, hitting out at growing "Islamophobic and xenophobic" views.

Lucke said in a statement released in the French city of Strasbourg that he would leave the AfD on Friday together with many other members of the fledgling party, including some with an official role.

The move follows his ouster at a party congress on Saturday when AfD members elected a new leader from its right wing, Frauke Petry, signalling a shift in focus to immigration from its anti-euro origins.

In the AfD, Lucke said in his statement, he no longer saw the possibility of advocating his political goals without being misused "as a middle-class figurehead for political views which I deeply reject".

"Among them are in particular Islamaphobic and xenophobic views", which, he said, were spreading in the party both openly and latently.

He said he had only recognised too late "to what extent members in the party were pushing who want to remodel the AfD into a protest party and one of enraged citizens".

The party, formed in early 2013, had been riven by a months-long power struggle between Lucke, 52, its economic neo-liberal leader and founder, and 40-year-old Petry, who heads a national conservative faction.

Petry, who won overwhelming backing to take over as leader, has supported talks with the anti-Islam, anti-immigration PEGIDA movement which emerged late last year in the eastern state of Saxony.

She told delegates Saturday that she wanted to address all issues "without taboos" that are of concern to citizens, including immigration.

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