By Sarah Marsh
BERLIN (Reuters) – The far-right Alternative for Germany said on Wednesday it intended to nominate a chancellor candidate for the first time for the 2025 election as it soars in the polls, a day after the domestic spy agency cautioned voters about backing the party.
Founded a decade ago, the AfD has surged to second place in opinion polls due to voter worries about recession, migration and the transition to a carbon-neutral economy, political analysts say.
The anti-establishment party is also benefiting from voter distrust in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s awkward three-party coalition that has spent much of the past few months fighting publicly over how to deal with these crises.
Support for the AfD is running at a record 19-20%, behind the opposition conservatives on 27-28% but ahead or on a par with Scholz’s Social Democrats and well ahead of the two junior partners in his coalition.
Asked by broadcaster ntv if the AfD would name a chancellor candidate, party co-chief Alice Weidel said “of course, we would also nominate (one) without these polling numbers”, side-stepping a question about whether she would present herself.
The likelihood of an AfD candidate becoming Germany’s chancellor is very low currently given the party would need to be able to form a government and currently all other parties have ruled out working with it.
Still, the gesture of nominating a candidate would denote the ambition of the most successful far-right party in Germany since the Nazis, which is increasingly shaking up the political landscape of Europe’s most populous country and largest economy.
That authorities are worried about the situation was highlighted on Tuesday, when the head of the domestic spy agency Thomas Haldenwang warned citizens that far-right extremism posed the biggest threat to German democracy and voters should bear this in mind before casting their ballot for the AfD.
Haldenwang said parts of the AfD membership had spread hate against minorities as well as disseminated anti-Semitic sentiment and pro-Russian narratives.
The AfD did not response to a request for comment on his statement. The party, which is under domestic spy agency surveillance, denies accusations of extremism.
Even if the AfD is unable to get into power, political analysts say, it is already forcing other parties more frequently into unwieldy coalitions by eating away at their popular support.
That is especially the case for the former Communist east of Germany which remains poorer than the rest of the country and where trust in democratic institutions is weaker.
The AfD is currently on track to winning the vote in all three east German states holding elections next year.
The party has in particular benefited from fierce infighting in Scholz’s coalition, most lately over a new law on phasing out oil and gas heating systems that critics said would over-burden household finances.
“The stronger the crisis mood, the bigger the AfD’s success,” said Hans Vorlaender, director of a political research centre in Dresden. “And when you also have a population that doesn’t trust the government anymore, it is easy game for the only really big opposition group that argues in a populist way.”
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; additional Reporting by Friederike Heine; editing by Mark Heinrich)
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