With SPD support down, the far-right AfD is almost certain to enter parliament in the upcoming German election. Meanwhile, a leading party figure has reiterated calls for Germany to stop apologizing for its Nazi past.
The co-ruling Social Democrats (SPD) are polling at 20 percent, only 8 percent ahead of the right-wing, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), according to an ARD-Deutschlandtrend poll published on Thursday.
The result is the SPD's lowest level since January, when the selection of new party leader Martin Schulz gave an unexpected bounce to the party's support. The AfD's figures, meanwhile, have held relatively firm.
Support for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) is at 37 percent, while the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) has 9.5 percent, the Left party 9 percent and the Greens 7.5 percent, ARD-Deutschlandtrend said.
If these figures hold, the AfD would become the third-largest party in the lower house behind the CDU and the SPD. It would also become the first right-wing party to enter the legislature in over half a century.
'Germany needs to reclaim its history'
Meanwhile, one of the AfD's top candidates in the September 24 election said on Thursday that Germans should be proud of what their soldiers had achieved during the two world wars.
"If I look around Europe, no other people has dealt as clearly with their past wrongs as the Germans," the 76-year-old Alexander Gauland said in a speech to supporters on September 2 that has since been posted on YouTube.
"People no longer need to reproach us with these 12 years - they don't relate to our identity nowadays," Gauland said, referring to the Nazi era.
He added that the battle of Verdun during World War I belonged to German history, as did Erwin Rommel, the World War II field marshal and army officer Claus von Stauffenberg, who led an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler in July 1944.
"If the French are rightly proud of their emperor and the Britons of Nelson and Churchill, we have the right to be proud of the achievements of the German soldiers in two world wars," Gauland said.
In January, Björn Höcke, the AfD's leader in the eastern state of Thuringia, sparked outrage for describing the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin as a "monument of shame" and for demanding a "180-degree turnaround" in the way Germany seeks to atone for Nazi crimes.
The AfD began life in 2013 as a euroskeptic party before morphing into an anti-Islam, anti-immigration group. Since capitalizing on widespread anger over the refugee influx in 2015, the right-wing populists have won seats in 13 of Germany's 16 state legislatures.
jbh/cmk (dpa, Reuters)