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Far-right AfD overtakes Social Democrats in poll

February 19, 2018

The populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) has overtaken the Social Democrats (SPD) in a national opinion poll for the first time. The news comes as the SPD begins a crucial vote on a coalition with Angela Merkel.

Berlin Kreuzberg AfD-Wahlplakat
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/W. Steinberg

A poll published on behalf of German tabloid Bild has found that 16 percent of voters would choose the right-wing, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), half-a-percent more than those who would vote for the Social Democrats (SPD).

The figures released by the INSA polling institute show the SPD in free fall. Germany's oldest political party has seen its polling figures plummet even further since it garnered just 20.5 percent of the vote in September's federal election, its worst result in the post-war era.

DW political correspondent Thomas Sparrow described the poll as a "bombshell," and part of a larger trend that sees traditional parties losing ground to the anti-immigrant AFD.

"Let's not forget that the AfD entered the German parliament for the first time in September, they became Germany's third most important force political in the parliament and they tap essentially into people's fears," Sparrow told DW television. "We are talking here about immigration, about their suspicions regarding the establishment, the established political parties, that's one of the reasons why they had been able to take some of those voters away from both the Conservatives and the Social Democrats."

Read more: Opinion: Martin Schulz's political gamble has failed

The newspaper Bild described the survey "a bitter blow" for the SPD, while INSA chief Hermann Binkert said the poll showed that "the conservative bloc is currently the only truly mainstream party."

The SPD's seen better days

The news will add to the Social Democrats' woes, whose members will begin voting on whether to forge another "grand coalition" with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives on Tuesday.

However, the SPD leadership's decision to pursue a coalition deal with Merkel has been the catalyst for its fall in support. Many in the SPD — and the party's youth wing in particular — have warned against another coalition, arguing that the party must go into opposition to properly regroup.

According to Sparrow, the fall of the SPD cannot be blamed squarely on the populist forces. The left-leaning party has lost its political "profile" by entering two grand coalitions with Angela Merkel, with the right-leaning chancellor taking away "some of the core elements" of the SPD's identity.

"Let's not forget that Social Democrats – for a very long time – were a natural home of Germany's working class. And, to a certain extent, they lost that idea," Sparrow said.

Read more: Andrea Nahles would take the reins of a troubled SPD

Martin Schulz, who led the party to its worst election result since 1945, stepped down as leader last week. The SPD will hope a change in leadership in the form of Andrea Nahles will give it a much needed boost.

Nahles is expected to be elected to the helm of the SPD at the next party congress on April 22.

Elsewhere, the poll saw Merkel's Christian Democrats strengthen their lead at the top by two points to 32 percent.

The Greens retained a steady 13 percent, the Left Party saw its support fall to 11 percent and the Free Democrats (FDP) fell 1.5 points to 9 percent.

A total of 2040 citizens were interviewed for the survey from 16-19 of February.

Second poll disputes INSA findings

Pollsters from INSA, however, admitted that a poll of this size had to take into account a margin of error of at least 3 percent, placing doubts over the AfD's narrow 0.5 percent lead over the SPD. 

Read more: Germany's SPD rank and file seek Labour's 'Corbyn factor'

Infographic Bundestag seats ENG

The Forsa Institute's "Trend Barometer," also published on Monday on behalf of German broadcasters RTIL and n-tv, found that the SPD was still second most popular party in Germany, albeit also with just 16 percent of the voter share.

The AfD, meanwhile, stil laid still a good way behind 13 percent of the vote. Merkel's conservative bloc took 34 percent, while the Greens enjoyed 13 percent, the Left Party 10 percent and the Free Democrats 9 percent.

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dm/rt (Reuters, dpa, AFP)