Berlin (CNSNews.com) – If polling ahead of Germany’s September 24 election proves accurate, the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party could become the first populist nationalist party – which counts a number of right-wing extremists among its members – to enter the country’ parliament since the end of World War II.
The AfD is predicted to win 10 percent of the vote, according to a new Insa poll, well above the five percent threshold needed to enter parliament and establishing it as Germany’s third largest party.
The poll released Tuesday has Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) in the lead with 37 percent, followed by the Social Democrats (SPD) with 25 percent.
Behind the AfD in third place, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) are set to win nine percent of the vote, Die Linke (The Left Party) nine percent, and the Greens seven percent.
Not all polls predict the AfD scoring so strongly, however. For example an Emnid poll published on Saturday instead placed the party at eight percent, level with the FDP and behind Die Linke, at 10 percent.
The Forschungsgruppe Wahlen poll puts the AfD, FDP and Die Linke all at eight percent, indicating the battle for third place could be tight.
Regardless, all poll predictions give the AfD enough support for enter the federal Bundestag for the first time. It already has a foothold at the regional level, represented in 13 out of 16 states.
Its policy positions include declaring Islam incompatible with German culture, a plan to strip immigrants convicted of serious crimes of their German passports, a call to close E.U.'s borders and set up holding camps abroad to prevent migrants from traveling to Germany.
If the AfD does become the third largest party in parliament, its impact on the German political landscape is uncertain.
Josef Janning, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, says the AfD’s arrival in parliament will likely prompt the CDU to shift its stance further to the right in a bid to suppress the newcomer’s influence.
“AfD presence will contribute to moves among CDU and CSU to better cover their conservative wing,” Janning told CNBC on Tuesday. “The CDU, which has moved to the center with Merkel effectively occupying ground formerly held by conservative [elements in the] SPD, will likely move to the right.”
Others consider AfD’s gains too insignificant to cause any significant impact. David Lea, senior analyst for Western Europe at Control Risks, told the broadcaster “Entering as a minority party outside of any coalition, the AfD will not be that influential and will remain very much on the fringe.”
The AfD was founded as a Eurosceptic party in 2013, and saw a string of state election successes in 2016 by opposing Merkel’s “open door” policy after a wave of terrorist attacks and mass sexual assaults in Cologne and other cities during New Year 2015/16 soured public opinion regarding asylum seekers.
Its base is primarily in the formerly communist eastern states (where it has representation in all local parliaments), and it has also captured supporters through the decline of more extreme far-right parties like the ultranationalist National Democratic Party.
However the AfD struggled to maintain its momentum after the CDU toughened its stance on immigration, refugee arrival numbers fell, and the public’s view toward the CDU improved.
The party also suffered setbacks after some party leaders’ comments attracted accusations of anti-Semitism, racism and even Nazi-sympathizing. Co-leader Frauke Petry faces potential perjury charges, for allegedly lying to election officials about the AfD’s finances.
Despite this, AfD founding member Frank-Christian Hansel expressed confidence that Merkel’s popularity would diminish in the coming term, anticipating that dissatisfaction with public policy and European Union frustrations will undermine her efforts.
“The problems are getting so big with the migration crisis etc. that this next government will not be in power for the full four years,” CNBC quoted him as saying.
At a re-election campaign rally on Monday, Merkel reassured participants that she does not envisage another migration crisis, saying the CDU will not “allow a year like 2015 to recur every year.” Germany admitted nearly 890,000 migrants that year.
Instead, it would tackle root causes of migration, through measures like encouraging development in Africa, she said.
AfD supporters in the audience chanted “Merkel out” and “immigration needs clear rules.”