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Germany gives Euroskeptic party a voice in EU parliament

Supporters of the Euroskeptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party wear morph suits and wave flags during an event to rally support for Sunday's European Parliament elections at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin May 23, 2014.

Thomas Peter/Reuters

The European Union parliamentary elections are full of eccentric parties and candidates, from bible thumpers to animal-rights advocates, adding a touch of eccentricity to an otherwise dull-a-thon campaign.

Take Hugh Theodore Bronson. He looks like an aging rugby player and speaks in a rather posh accent. He has a PhD in comparative literature from England's University of East Anglia and bellows about the European Union's "democratic deficit" and why economic washouts like Greece have no business using the euro.

Nothing much unusual about that – almost every EU country is fielding a Euroskeptic party of some sort – except he's doing it all in flawless German from his little blue and white campaign stand on Kurfurstendamm, one of Berlin's main shopping drags. His mission is to drum up support for Alternative for Germany, the country's upstart Euroskeptic party that was on course Sunday night to win its first seats in the EU parliament.

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"The decisions made in Europe have to be more accountable to the people," he said on the weekend to a small group of pedestrians who are rather impressed by his bilingual eloquence. "We don't want more integration. We want a different Europe."

Mr. Bronson, 53 has British and German passports, has spent equal amounts of time in both countries and, lately, has been working as a conference organizer in Berlin. When Alternative for Germany latched onto the EU Euroskeptic trend a year ago, he jumped on board.

While the EU's institutions have been criticized as undemocratic, the EU parliament itself is a democratic wonder in that it is free of threshold limits, meaning any party that gets even a smattering of votes can win a seat. In Germany, roughly 1 per cent of the vote will translate into one seat in the 751-seat parliament.

Sunday night's exit polls gave Alternative for Germany a rather strong 7 per cent of the German vote, enough to give the new party at least seven seats. Mr. Bronson himself did not make the cut, nor did he expect to. Still, he was thrilled.

His party will find itself stuffed in parliament with an odd collection of EU parliamentarians on the left, right, middle and whimsical fringe. "That's okay," he said. "We just wanted a voice and tonight we got it. Seven per cent is enough for the mainstream parties to see that there is a new player in the field."

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