Turning Crisis into Success in Germany

BERLIN – According to an early May opinion poll by ARD DeutschlandTREND, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party’s popular support now stands at 15%, up from around 5% a year ago. Can this dangerous trend be reversed?

The AfD’s rise since last summer has been the direct result of the surge in the number of refugees – close to one million in 2015 – entering Germany. After all, the party has made opposition to admitting refugees the centerpiece of its platform, which also includes antagonism toward the European Union and a very conservative social program, to which an openly sectarian religious component was added at a May 3 party convention in Stuttgart.

Yet Germany’s broad political center continues to hold. The center-right Christian Democrats and their allies still have the support of about 33% of the electorate; the center-left Social Democrats have 20% support; and the Green Party is backed by some 13%. Even the Free Democrats have clawed their way back from hard times, and now have about 6% support.

In short, moderate political forces still enjoy the support of more than 70% of Germans – in contrast with, say, Austria, where the far right was able to gain 36% in the first round of presidential elections. Even Germany’s Left Party, which has 8% support and is not traditionally defined as moderate, has a more moderate “eastern” wing and a more radical “western” wing.