The Alternative for Germany, referred to as the AfD, likes to present itself as the party that voices the concerns of Germany’s silent majority, especially on policies regarding asylum and immigration.
But the latest study by the Allenbach institute for opinion research paints an entirely different picture. Pollsters found nearly three-quarters of German voters dismiss the AfD as an anti-democratic party, German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported, further highlighting the far-right party’s rapid fall from favor with the German public.
A right-wing, euro-skeptic party that calls for stringent border controls and a crackdown on Muslim immigration to Germany, the AfD enjoyed a surge in popularity in the wake of the refugee crisis in the summer and fall of 2015, when thousands of asylum seekers crossed into the country every day for months on end. The party, founded just four years ago, did well in a string of subsequent elections and entered several of Germany’s state parliaments, in some instances with more than 20 percent of the vote.
The AfD looked poised to disrupt German politics and storm into the national parliament, the Bundestag, at the general election scheduled for September 24. But months of infighting, which led party leader Frauke Petry to drop out of the election race and a string of Third Reich-related controversies, have brought the party’s seemingly irresistible rise to a screeching halt.
As the Allensbach survey has found, the proportion of German voters who doubt the AfD’s democratic credentials jumped eight percentage points in a year. The poll results also evidence that the gains the party made in the wake of the refugee crisis were wiped out, as 68 percent of respondents said they “could not imagine ever voting” for the far-right party, with just 15 percent answering the opposite. The same survey, two years ago, before the refugee crisis reached its peak and gave the AfD a significant boost, found that less than two-thirds of Germans would not consider voting for the far-right party.
“Today, four months before the general election, the AfD is the party of a small, isolated minority.”
This has been shown not just in opinion polls, but also in recent state elections. In all three elections held so far this year, the AfD fell well below the 10-percent mark, a far cry from its showing in elections held last year. “We’re expecting over 15 percent. Perhaps we’ll even get 20 percent,” Rudolf Müller, the AfD’s contender in Saarland, a southwestern state next to the German-French border, predicted ahead of the vote held on March 26. Yet the party ended up with a measly 6.2 percent.
A month ago, the party ostensibly tried to escape the fringe right-wing corner it has painted itself into by appointing Alice Weidel, a 38-year old former Goldman Sachs banker, as its co-leader. But whether this move helps the party bounce back to its former heights remains to be seen.
“Today, four months before the general election, the AfD is the party of a small, isolated minority, whose isolation has grown in the past years,” Thomas Petersen, a researcher for the Allensbach institute, wrote.
Jean-Michel Hauteville is an editor with Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. To reach the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.