19th Jan 2020

Far right to double support in east German election

  • Germany's far-right nationalist party is set for election gains in an east German state (Photo: Reuters)

The far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party is expected to make election gains in the east German state of Thuringia, amid a recent poll showing one in four in the country held antisemitic beliefs.

The AfD is a nationalist and anti-immigrant party whose leadership has called for a "180-degree U-turn" on Germany's Nazi past.

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Among its members is AfD firebrand Björn Höcke, who is set to double party support in a vote on Sunday (27 October) that will shape a new local parliament.

The projected AfD boost means Thuringia's current left-leaning alliance among three other parties is unlikely to hold.

The AfD surge comes after a shooting earlier this month on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur that left two people dead near a synagogue in the eastern German town of Halle.

It also comes amid a World Jewish Congress study, cited earlier this week in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, that showed anti-Semitism was gaining strength in Germany.

At least 27 percent of the 1,300 people polled agreed with a number of antisemitic statements and stereotypes associated with Jews.

The percentage jumped to 41 percent when asked if they thought "Jews talk about the Holocaust too much."

The AfD appears to have either capitalised and or helped shape some of those sentiments, billing itself as a party that wants to help Germans struggling to get by since the fall of the Berlin wall.

Thuringia is also itself mired in a Nazi past that saw some 56,000 sent to their death at the Buchenwald concentration camp there.

"To me, Höcke is a Nazi. Others have come to the same conclusion," the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) party's Mike Mohring, who is Höcke's main rival in the east German state, said.

Mohring and Greens co-leader Robert Habeck have both received death threats, possibly from neo-Nazis.

Although starting off as a party that opposed the euro, the AfD took a hard swing to the right following the influx of asylum seekers into Germany in 2015.

It is now Germany's third largest at the federal level behind Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU and the centre-left Social Democrats.

In 2017, the AfD entered Germany's national parliament for the first time, where its national support hovered just under 13 percent. But a more recent opinion poll put its popularity at 24 percent on par with the CDU.

The AfD is expected to make similar gains in Thuringia, jumping from around 10 percent to 23 percent.

But the German region's current left-leaning coalition led by the far-left Die Linke is still expected to win the overall vote with around 30 percent.

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