Germany’s centrist parties alarmed as poll shows growing support for far right

Survey shows Alternative for Germany party on par with Chancellor Scholz’s Social Democrats, a steep gain since the 2021 election

Alice Weidel, co-faction leader of the Alternative for Germany party, delivers a speech during a meeting of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, December 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Alice Weidel, co-faction leader of the Alternative for Germany party, delivers a speech during a meeting of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, December 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

BERLIN — Prominent members of German mainstream parties have expressed alarm at a new poll that shows support for the far-right faction Alternative for Germany at a record high.

The DeutschlandTrend survey, conducted monthly by the research group infratest dimap for public broadcaster ARD, was released on Thursday and put voter support for Alternative for Germany at 18%, on a par with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats.

In the 2021 election, Scholz’s party received 25.7% of the vote, while Alternative for Germany, or AfD, got 10.3%.

“This… is a disaster and should be understood as an alarm signal for all parties of the center,” said Norbert Roettgen, a senior lawmaker for the main opposition Christian Democrats, whose support stood at 29% in the poll of 1,302 voters conducted from May 30-31. The margin of error was up to 3 percentage points.

Roettgen said his own center-right party should ask itself why it hasn’t profited as much from voters’ unhappiness at the government.

His party colleague Serap Guler said the strong support for AfD should alarm all democratic parties.

“We bear responsibility for changing this again quickly,” she said late Thursday.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz briefs the media during a news conference after a meeting of the “Alliance for Transformation” at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, June 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

AfD previously hit 18% in the DeutschlandTrend survey in September 2018 amid discord in then Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government.

Scholz’s three-party coalition with the environmentalist Greens and the libertarian Free Democrats has faced strong headwinds recently over high immigration and a plan to replace millions of home heating systems in the country. Germany’s military support for Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion is also rejected by a sizeable portion of the populace, though it has majority support.

AfD and its affiliates have come under scrutiny from the country’s domestic intelligence agency, BfV, for its ties to extremists. The head of the agency warned recently of “astonishing parallels” between the present and the 1920s and 1930s, which saw a rise in political extremism and authoritarianism that culminated in the Nazi dictatorship.

About two-thirds of those who supported AfD in the poll said they did so in protest over other parties, rather than because they were convinced by the far right’s policies.

Still, AfD stands a chance to win in three state elections in eastern Germany next year, which would put mainstream forces in the awkward position of having to form a broad coalition against the strongest party.

A leading member of the Free Democrats, Bijan Djir-Sarai, said that the strong support for AfD was shocking.

“It should prompt self-criticism from all democratic parties,” he told German news agency dpa on Friday. Djir-Sarai said that it was important to win back frustrated voters and take their concerns seriously.

Sawsan Chebli, a member of the Social Democrats, tweeted after the polls were published: “The AfD is at 18 percent. People, wake the hell up!”

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