EU elections: Why has Germany's far-right AfD party crashed in the polls?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
EU elections: Why has Germany's far-right AfD party crashed in the polls?
Tino Chrupalla (l), AfD federal leader and AfD parliamentary group leader Alice Weidel. The AfD has seen a recent reversal of fortune in the polls ahead of European elections. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Carsten Koall

With voters across the EU set to vote in European elections at the end of this week, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has recorded a sudden and pronounced fall in opinion polls. What's the reason and what could it mean for the election result in Germany?


With a score of 15.5 percent, the German far-right AfD has just turned in its worst opinion poll result since March 2023.

The poll also marked a particularly steep fall in recent months, with the AfD having scored as high as 23 percent result as recently as January. The drop represents a loss of a third of the party's potential vote score in just a few months.

Polling firm INSA conducted the survey of 2,000 eligible voters on behalf of the Bild newspaper, showing a declining trend in the party's popularity with just days to go until EU citizens resident in Germany head to the polls for European elections on Sunday.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats - themselves recording historically low poll numbers - just edged out the AfD in the poll, registering a score of 16 percent. The Greens - also in the current federal government - came slightly behind at 13 percent.

At 31 percent, the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) - currently in opposition in Germany - maintain a sizeable lead, the poll shows.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What's at stake in the European parliamentary elections?

So what might this mean for European election results in Germany and the rest of Europe?

If the poll is reflected in the election, the far-right could end up with slightly fewer European Parliament seats in Germany than originally expected. That said, the far-right is expected to do well elsewhere in Europe, so the net effect of German losses are likely to only make a difference in an extremely close contest.

Furthermore, other parties at the political fringes are getting voters as well - with about 7.5 percent saying they plan to vote for BSW (Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht) - a recently founded far-left pro-Russian movement of mostly former Left party MPs.

With nearly a third of German voters in recent polls saying they'll vote for the CDU, the centre-right could end up getting twice as many seats in Germany as its nearest competitor - potentially repudiating increasingly far-right trends in other parts of Europe.

READ ALSO: Can foreign residents in Germany vote in the European elections?


Why the drop?

According to Kai Arzheimer, a political scientist at the University of Mainz who specialises in the far-right, there's a number of possible reasons for the AfD's recent slide - and it's still difficult to say which one is primarily responsible.

These include public backlash to January's deportation scandal, competition from the BSW, the public placing slightly less emphasis on immigration than a few months ago, and the party's many recent scandals - including revelations that some AfD MEPs were taking Russian bribes and that an assistant to MEP Maximilian Krah had been spying for China.

"My expectation for the European election result in Germany is that they will end up with 15-18 per cent of the vote, which is less than they may have expected but significantly more than they got in 2019," Arzheimer tells The Local. "While they are in obviously in all sorts of hot water, they are still polling well above their last national results, so it is difficult to say if any party at all is benefiting from their problems."

READ ALSO: Germany's far-right AfD denies plan to expel 'non-assimilated foreigners'


What about this year's German state elections?

Even with the drop, the AfD is still expected to do well in three eastern German state elections this autumn.

So far, the AfD is leading in Thuringia, Brandenburg, and Saxony - and the potential coalitions required to govern without them are getting increasingly unwieldy. Polls have the AfD above 30 percent in both Thuringia and Saxony.

The European and state elections are also likely to put more pressure on Germany's current federal traffic light coalition - the ruling parties currently have combined results that only equal the CDU's. The liberal Free Democrats, in particular, would struggle to reach the five percent threshold necessary for any seats in the Bundestag if a federal election were held today.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED - Could the far-right AfD ever take power in Germany?



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