(Berlin) The German far right faces an important electoral test on Sunday when it is the subject, despite very favorable polls, of an unprecedented wave of protest via demonstrations throughout the country.
The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party hopes to win the presidency of the canton of Saale-Orla, in the East German region of Thuringia, in a local election. Its candidate, Uwe Thrume, obtained 45.7% of the votes in the first round, ahead of a Christian Democratic competitor (CDU) at 33%.
The result will resonate well beyond just the local level. Because the movement has been facing large-scale mobilization from German civil society for around two weeks.
On Saturday, several tens of thousands of people took to the streets again to denounce the rise of this party and the dangers for democracy that it would represent. In Düsseldorf (west), the police counted 100,000 demonstrators, and 25,000 in Osnabrück, further north.
These gatherings have been held since press revelations which created an earthquake in Germany: members of the AfD discussed at the end of last year a plan for the mass expulsion of foreigners and “unassimilated citizens” from the country. “.
While the anti-migrant and anti-system party has continued to progress in voting intentions for months, a poll by the Insa institute, carried out in the wake of the first anti-AfD demonstrations, reported a decline at 21.5%, compared to 23% previously.
The demonstrations “have an effect”, said the director of Insa, Hermann Binkert, in the daily Bild.
It remains to be seen whether this decline will be reflected at the polls on Sunday, with the vote taking place in one of the AfD’s strongholds. The party traditionally achieves its best results in the eastern German states such as Thuringia.
The AfD is driven by a dynamic fueled by the increase in immigration and the unpopularity of the government of social democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in power since December 2021.
The party already leads a canton in Germany since a victory in June in the community of Sonneberg, also in Thuringia.
According to the daily FAZ, between 130 and 150 new members join the far-right party every day, whose number of activists could increase from 40,000 to 60,000 members by the end of the year.
“We must face the facts: the evil genie is out of the bottle,” lamented the daily newspaper this week. Die Zeit Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who until now had rather sought to minimize the growth of the party.
The economic world also warns of the risks linked to the progression of the AfD’s theses, asserting its need for foreign labor and international trade. The party recently indicated that it wanted a referendum to leave the EU.
“Voters really need to ask themselves whether we want to live in a country where such issues are discussed,” said Siegfried Russwurm, head of the powerful industry lobby BDI.
“Only if people feel good with us will they come and only then will we be sustainably attractive,” also judged Peter Adrian, president of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry DIHK.
In this context, more and more voices are calling for cutting public funds to the AfD, especially as the party is in the crosshairs of the intelligence services. Its regional branches in Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt were placed under surveillance because of their positions considered very radical.