Lisa Haseldine Lisa Haseldine

What’s behind Germany’s far-right surge?

Credit: Getty images

Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), Germany’s far-right populist party, is enjoying a surge in support. A poll by broadcaster ARD this month revealed that 18 per cent of voters backed the AfD – its highest rating since the party was founded in 2013. This level of support – which puts the AfD on level pegging with the SPD – is ringing alarm bells in Berlin.

Since the end of the second world war, Germany’s post-war identity has been moulded around coming to terms with its history. Germans even have a word for it: ‘Vergangenheitsbewältigung’. The national mantra for eight decades has been ‘never again’. But is something sinister afoot in German politics? 

AfD’s gains in the polls strike at the heart of the identity painstakingly crafted by Germany since 1945

ARD’s damning poll revealed that support for Germany’s traffic light coalition government, made up of the SPD, the liberal FDP and the Greens, was steadily melting away. A further nail in the coffin for the coalition came last Friday, when a YouGov survey revealed that a fifth of Germans would vote for the AfD in an election. Support for the SDP had ebbed even lower to 19 per cent; the Greens and FDP managed just 18 per cent between them.

Germany’s mainstream parties have fallen over themselves to point fingers at each other over where the blame for the AfD’s surge in popularity lies. Friedrich Merz, the leader of the centre-right opposition party CDU/CSU, accused the governing coalition and ‘particularly the Greens’ for being responsible for the AfD’s rise. Ricarda Lang, co-chair of the Greens, hit back, saying that politicians should work together ‘instead of pointing fingers at each other and losing themselves in one-sided accusations. Because that only strengthens the AfD.’

Those who fear the AfD have good reason to do so. Last year, a court in Cologne ruled that the AfD was a threat to democracy and granted permission for it to be monitored by the country’s security services.

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