German rightwing party pulls ahead of Merkel in regional election poll


A poll conducted by the Bild newspaper shows the AFD has sent tremors through the coalition government of the CDU and SPD which is reeling as public anger over unchecked refugee immigration continues to soar.

The AFD has the support of 17 percent of voters in the state, a spike of 12 points since September.  If the numbers crunch badly for Mrs. Merkel in elections in three weeks time she could face a vote of no confidence among her party chieftans.

The AFD is the worst nightmare for a country that has struggled to keep a lid on right-wing populism since the fall of Nazism in 1945.  It is drawing support from the middle class which feels betrayed by Mrs. Merkel”s open-door policy towards refugees which has seen over a million pour into the country in the last year.

Originally founded as a euroskeptic challenger to the CDU, it shifted gears several months ago to make opposition to the refugees its central electioneering plank.

The “Bild” poll had the SPD at 16 percent in Saxony-Anhalt with the CDU out in front at 30 percent. 

Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate are also set for  elections that may prove to have surprising results. The newspaper poll showed that in Baden-Württemberg, the birthplace of the CDU, Chancellor Merkel”s party had only a percentage point above the Green party.

Rhineland-Palatinate was a close call between the two traditional parties, with the CDU at 35 points and the SPD at 33, meaning the AFD will likely gain seats in state parliaments.

Frauke Petry, the party leader, caused outrage last month when she suggested border guards open fire with live ammunition at illegal refugees – but a week later it was found that 29 percent of voters agreed with her.

Petry denied the AFD stoked anti-immigrant hatred a day after a former hotel being turned into a refugee home was set on fire in the town of Bautzen in Saxony. Petry said the AFD was a “very necessary alternative to traditional parties.”

She also lambasted comments from Bautzen”s mayor that the AFD had committed “spiritual arson” with its politics. “To say something like that about a political opponent is cheap polemics,” said Petry.

As tensions ratcheted up on Tuesday across Europe with new waves of refugees seeking to get to to EU lands, Austria”s Foreign Minister Kurz defended imposing a ceiling for refugees of 37,500 this year.

 “As long as there is no European solution, we will need to use national measures, to reduce the influx into Austria”, he said.

“We want to prevent illegal migration, so that undocumented and unregistered people no longer travel to Austria. We will cooperate as closely as possible with the countries of the Western Balkans and support, in particular, Macedonia.”