Germany: AfD party supporters gather for Dresden convention
A new poll revealing record-high support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has sparked concern among prominent members of mainstream German political parties. The surge in far-right voters in Germany also prompt calls on the EU to address a domino effect across the Brussels bloc.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, Dr Helena Ivanov warned: “We have seen it in France, and in Italy, and Sweden – the rise of far-right political parties dominating election and preelection coverage.
“What drives the rise of the far-right is a mixture of things. For one, I think that many people are unhappy with their current government policies and don’t feel like their governments represent them adequately – and see the far right as the viable alternative.
“In addition, European countries have not seriously devoted attention to these dissatisfied voters for a long time and often dismiss them – we saw this significantly from Von der Leyen before the Italian elections.
“This narrative puts space between representatives and the electorate, creating a void that the far-right can feel and offer the voters something they relate to.
“To get us out of here, the left and the centre must get serious and address these grievances head-on, and not diminishes legitimate concerns on matters such as immigration and public spending.”
The DeutschlandTrend survey, conducted monthly by infratest dimap for public broadcaster ARD, was released on Thursday. It indicates that AfD now enjoys 18 percent voter support, putting them on par with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats. In the 2021 election, Scholz’s party received 25.7 percent of the vote, while AfD obtained 10.3 percent.
Norbert Roettgen, a senior lawmaker for the main opposition Christian Democrats, expressed his alarm, stating, “This (…) is a disaster and should be understood as an alarm signal for all parties of the center.” His own party, the Christian Democrats, garnered 29 percent support in the poll conducted from May 30-31 among 1,302 voters, with a margin of error of up to 3 percentage points.
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Roettgen emphasised that his center-right party must reflect on why it has not benefited as much from voters’ dissatisfaction with the current government. Similarly, his party colleague Serap Guler stressed that the widespread support for AfD should concern all democratic parties. She added, “We bear responsibility for changing this again quickly.”
The DeutschlandTrend survey previously recorded AfD’s support at 18 percent in September 2018 during a period of discord within then Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government.
Chancellor Scholz’s three-party coalition with the environmentalist Greens and the libertarian Free Democrats has recently faced strong opposition due to concerns over high immigration and a plan to replace millions of home heating systems in the country.
A significant portion of the population also opposes Germany’s military support for Ukraine’s defence against the Russian invasion, although it still maintains majority support.
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AfD and its affiliated groups have faced scrutiny from Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, BfV, due to their links to extremists. The agency’s head recently warned of “astonishing parallels” between the present and the 1920s and 1930s, which witnessed a surge in political extremism and authoritarianism leading to the Nazi dictatorship.
Around two-thirds of the respondents who supported AfD in the poll stated that they did so as a protest against other parties rather than due to a genuine alignment with the far-right’s policies. Nevertheless, AfD has a chance to win in three state elections in eastern Germany next year, potentially placing mainstream forces in the challenging position of forming a broad coalition against the strongest party.
Bijan Djir-Sarai, a leading member of the Free Democrats, expressed shock at the strong support for AfD and called for self-criticism from all democratic parties. He emphasized the importance of regaining the trust of frustrated voters and addressing their concerns.
Sawsan Chebli, a member of the Social Democrats, tweeted her reaction to the published polls, urging people to “wake the hell up” as AfD’s support reached 18 percent.
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