Germany’s right-wing party, the AfD, is experiencing a surge in popularity, particularly in the formerly Communist eastern states where it has now become the leading party, attracting approximately one-third of voters.
Its support is also gradually increasing in the wealthier western regions.
Nationally, it is neck and neck in the polls with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, posing a significant challenge to Germany’s political establishment, reminiscent of its breakthrough in 2017 as the first far-right party to enter Parliament since World War II.
This unexpected turnaround is remarkable for a party that was widely written off in the German media just a year ago, following its decline in national elections.
It reflects the prevailing unease within a country standing at a crucial crossroads.
When Mr. Scholz’s three-party coalition assumed power in 2021, it vowed to guide Germany through a painful yet necessary transformation.
However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine thrust the nation into even greater uncertainty.
Initially, the coalition seemed to defy expectations, receiving praise for its commitment to replace postwar pacifism with military revitalization and swiftly finding alternative sources to reduce dependence on cheap Russian gas, which accounted for nearly half of Germany’s supply.
However, subsequent events took a toll.
The country slipped into a recession, and migration numbers soared to record highs, largely driven by an influx of Ukrainian refugees. Moreover, internal discord erupted within the coalition regarding the path Germany should follow in the aftermath of the conflict.
Amidst these challenges, the AfD, a party that had gained support through its criticism of migration, managed to rejuvenate its appeal by positioning itself as a defender of Germany’s economically vulnerable class.
Remarkably, the AfD’s resurgence persists despite being classified as a “suspected” right-wing extremist organization by domestic intelligence agencies, leading to surveillance measures.
In fact, its Thuringia branch has been officially designated as a “confirmed” extremist entity.
Furthermore, the party’s national youth wing received the same “confirmed extremist” classification a month earlier.
In previous years, the AfD seemed willing to sideline alleged extremist figures, but that approach has changed.
In April, co-leader Alice Wiedel shared a platform with Björn Höcke, the party leader in Thuringia who is widely regarded as one of the AfD’s most right-wing politicians.
Recently, state prosecutors charged Mr. Höcke for using the phrase “everything for Germany” at a rally, a slogan associated with Nazi Storm Troopers.