Germany’s far-right AfD party.. Infighting and rifts

Oct 11, 2020 | Studies & Reports

European Centre for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies-Germany and Netherlands.

What’s behind Germany’s far-right AfD party slump in polls?

DW – A survey has seen the AfD in eastern Germany — the party’s longtime stronghold — drop from first to third position in just a year. Is this a sign of things to come for the far-right?

German media were abuzz this week after the latest poll by the Kantar research institute suggested that in just a year, the far-right populist AfD had dropped from first to third position in eastern Germany — the party’s longtime stronghold. Compared to October 2019, support for the AfD in eastern states had fallen from 24% to 18%, putting it behind Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Left party.

Losses of 4-5% across the entire region of eastern Germany — five of Germany’s 16 federal states that previously made up former East Germany (GDR) — are “certainly substantial,” political scientist Hajo Funke told DW.

Agitation and violence

There are several reasons for this development, says Funke. Firstly, he says several high profile violent events in 2019 changed the political discourse.

One was the deadly shooting of regional conservative and pro-migrant politician Walter Lübcke in June 2019. A far-right extremist is now standing trial for his murder. Then the deadly shooting by a far-right extremist in Hanau, which left 10 people dead — most of them of foreign descent — and finally theanti-Semitic attack on a synagogue in Halle, last October.

“Since then, there has been a broad discussion across Germany’s about a connection between agitation by the AfD and other far-right activists and racist violence, anti-Semitic violence,” Funke says.

Infighting and rifts                    

Another major factor in the AfD’s loss in support is party infighting which has played out publicly in recent months in a spate of scandals that have highlighted the far-right extremist streak running through the party.

Over the six years of the party’s existence, the AfD has become all too familiar with scandals surrounding Holocaust deniers and far-right extremists. More recently, in May, Andreas Kalbitz, former AfD state leader in the eastern state of Brandenburg, was expelled from the party for his past connections with a neo-Nazi youth movement. Just last month, former party spokesperson Christian Lüth was firedafter reportedly saying migrants could be “shot or gassed.”