Far-Right AfD Becomes Second Most Popular Party in Germany

A protestor holds up a sign reading "Stop the AFD" during a demonstration in Berlin on October 22, 2017. Photo: AFP

Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) would beat the centre-left Social Democrats and become the country’s second-largest party if elections were held now, a survey found Monday.

The Insa poll, carried out for the top-selling Bild newspaper, put the AfD ahead of the crisis-wracked Social Democratic Party for the first time. Support for the 153-year-old SPD has fallen from 20.5 percent in September’s general election to 15.5 percent, it found, while the AfD climbed from 12.7 to 16 percent.

Angela Merkel‘s conservative CDU/CSU bloc was largely unchanged at 32 percent. Bild called the latest survey “a bitter blow” for the venerable SPD.

“The conservative bloc is currently the only truly mainstream party,” said Hermann Binkert, chief of the Insa polling institute.

Support for the SPD has plummeted since its leadership reluctantly agreed to form another “grand coalition” with Ms. Merkel’s conservatives after an inconclusive general election.

The vote saw mainstream parties bleed support to the anti-immigration and anti-Islam AfD, which won more than 90 seats in the German Bundestag.

After weeks of tortuous negotiations, Ms. Merkel’s conservatives and the SPD this month hammered out a hard-fought coalition pact that still needs to be approved by the SPD’s 460,000 rank-and-file.

If the members give the thumbs down, Ms. Merkel could choose to head an unstable minority government or face fresh elections — which could be disastrous for the SPD.

Social Democrats’ leader Martin Schulz, who led the party to its worst result in Germany’s postwar history in September, stepped down last week.