Light Wave


Far-Right Party AfD Gains As Discontent Spreads Across Germany

By Mara Lafontaine · July 30, 2023

In brief…

  • Alternative for Germany (AfD) is now Germany's second-strongest political party, polling at 20%.
  • Protesters converged on AfD's annual Party Conference in Magdeburg.
  • In June, the AfD won an important election in the German state of Thuringia.
  • The AfD has set its sites on the 2025 federal election and plans to nominate a chancellor candidate.
  • Experts say the AfD has capitalized on public fears on issues such as immigration and inflation.
  • Members of the AfD have voted to strengthen ties with other far-right parties in the EU.
Germany's far-right party AfD has been fueled by issues such as immigration and inflation.  Alternative für Deutschland / Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A far-right group is now Germany’s second-strongest political party. On Friday, Alternative for Germany(AfD) began its annual party conference in Magdeburg, Germany. By Saturday, thousands of people came to protest the ultra-conservative party. The AfD’s popularity has been surging, with a recent poll giving it 20% of the overall German vote, its highest mark ever. 

Last month, the party notched a major win in the central German state of Thuringia, where its candidate for district leader won a contentious runoff election with 52.8% of the vote, marking the 10-year-old party’s first such victory.

Even so, the alliance between the Christian Democrat Union and Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) remains #1 in the polls at 28% and steadfastly refuses to form a coalition with the AfD.

The AfD has now set its sights on the 2025 federal elections as it plans to nominate a chancellor candidate. That does not seem to bother Germany’s Social Democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who told Barron’s, “I’m quite confident that the AfD won’t perform very differently at the next parliamentary elections than it did at the last.” The AfD drew only ten percent of the vote in 2021.

Political scientist Ursula Münch of the Tutzing Academy told DW, “The AfD has always been successful with issues that increase fears. As is well known, we are living in times of multiple crises. There’s quite a bit of fear out there, fear of even more immigration, of refugees and other migrants. And then, of course, there’s the fear of rising prices and the fear of an encroaching state.”

AfD delegates have reportedly voted to strengthen ties with other far-right parties in the EU, as conservative populists continue to gain power across the continent. Germany’s Nazi past adds a layer of deep complexity to its right-wing politics.

Social Democrat politician Ralf Stegner told DW, “We have right-wing extremism in Scandinavia, in the United States or in France. In Germany, you look at the history of the last century, and you see what was the consequence of that. The terror state of Hitler and everything that… came after that. So, therefore, we cannot tolerate that there’s anti-Semitism; there’s violence against minorities, against refugees, and violence everywhere. And we have to fight the foes of democracy more early than other countries have to do that.”