Abeing screened to ferret out potential extremists, even though this slows down the party’s growth. Around 4,000 people have become members since March 7th. They are coming from across the political spectrum, says Mrs Petry.

Even if the Alternative qualifies in time, they need to reach the 5%  to enter the Bundestag. But the election looks increasingly likely to be a tight race between the centre-right coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the centre-left opposition. Since the Alternative appeals most directly to disillusioned voters on the centre-right, its mere appearance on ballots could prove to be “incredibly dangerous for Mrs Merkel,” says Mr Henkel. He points to a state election in Lower Saxony in January, where Mr Lucke ran as a candidate for another mildly Eurosceptic party, the Free Voters, which got barely over 1%. In a race that hinged on a few hundred votes, this mattered.

It would be undemocratic to obstruct a new party because of such tactical considerations, says Michael Wohlgemuth, the director of Open Europe Berlin, a Eurosceptic think tank. A large minority of Germans—one in four, according to one recent poll—are unsupportive of the euro. So far, Mrs Merkel has presented rescue efforts as “alternative-less.” Sooner or later, something called an Alternative for Germany was bound to come along