Berlin: To strong applause from other supporters at a rally of Germany`s fledgling anti-euro party, lawyer Frank Gerlach tells the crowd he`s pleased that Europe`s top economy once again has a "conservative party".
Describing himself as "divorced" from Chancellor Angela Merkel`s Christian Democrats (CDU), the 59-year-old discusses issues over a beer with the lead candidate of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), Alexander Gauland, in Sunday`s regional elections in Brandenburg state.
"Christian European conservative values are no longer defended by the CDU... like traditional marriage between a man and a woman," he said, on the first floor of a bar in the historic town of Bad Belzig, about 70 kilometres (40 miles) southwest of Berlin.
With both rural and industrial areas, Brandenburg state encircles the German capital and has been a bastion of the Social Democrats for 24 years.
But the AfD, polling at around 9.5 percent, looks set to enter the state assembly, as well as that in another ex-Communist East German state, Thuringia, also voting Sunday, after the party stormed into Saxony state parliament two weeks ago.
Set up early last year, the AfD`s main battle cry in the September 2013 general elections -- for Germany to exit the single European currency -- is not raised by the around 30 people, mostly male and of all ages, at the rally last week.
But as it has gained in support, critics say it has flirted with populist and even extremist positions.
Gauland, 73, an AfD founding member after 40 years supporting the CDU, kicks off his speech on the issue of asylum seekers.
He complains that authorities in Doberlug-Kirchhain, in the south of the state, have earmarked the accommodation of 1,000 asylum seekers in a former Bundeswehr army barracks "without even having informed" the 9,000 inhabitants.
"More and more people have reservations about asylum seekers. Many remain here although they don`t have the right. Germans` helpfulness is going to end up diminishing," argued the former publisher of the Maerkische Allgemeine Zeitung daily.
Engineer Kurt Blum, 60, who comes from Potsdam, Brandenburg`s capital, told AFP he hadn`t voted since Germany`s reunification in 1990 but had been moved to join the AfD.
"I decided to become a member of the AfD in August because I agree with 70-75 percent of their manifesto," he said.
His main concern is how to handle the influx of foreigners.
"I`m in favour of controlled immigration," he said, reiterating one of the slogans on the AfD`s electoral posters pinned up all over Bad Belzig.
Calm and poised, Gauland, who grew up in Chemnitz, formerly called Karl Marx City in the former German Democratic Republic, before fleeing to the West aged 18, also raises the problem of criminality along the Brandenburg border with Poland.
But, he says, he "prefers to be called populist than to deceive voters by ignoring the real problems".