Germany’s new eurosceptic party is poised to make strong gains in two regional elections this weekend, ratcheting up pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel who faces a threat on her right flank for the first time since taking power nine years ago. The small but fast-growing Alternative for Germany (AfD) poached thousands of votes from Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) in an election in Saxony two weeks ago, winning nearly 10 percent of the vote there with a focus on law-and-order policies and conservative values. It could repeat the trick in two other eastern states — Thuringia and Brandenburg — on Sunday. “Merkel has brought stability to the German economy and that has kept the conservatives in the CDU quiet,” said politics professor Nils Diederich at Berlin’s Free University. “But if the CDU starts losing votes, Merkel could come under pressure.” The threat from the AfD is not immediate. Merkel enjoys record popularity ratings of over 70 percent and is the undisputed leader of her party and government after leading the CDU to its strongest performance since reunification in a federal election last year.
But the rise of the AfD has led to grumbling from some of her allies who worry that the CDU is at risk of losing its appeal to traditional conservative voters because of Merkel’s shift to the political centre.
Horst Seehofer, leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party to Merkel’s CDU, warned this week against underestimating the AfD, saying they were “no dummies”.
If the AfD establishes a foothold in the three eastern states and then spreads west, they could become a major headache for the chancellor in the run-up to the 2017 federal election.
A recent poll by Emnid showed that 22 percent of Germans could imagine voting for the AfD in 2017. The party narrowly missed the 5 percent threshold for getting into parliament in the federal election one year ago. Recent polls put their national support at around 7 percent.
In Thuringia and Brandenburg, the state that surrounds the capital Berlin, the AfD is expected to score up to 9 percent.
Full Article: German eurosceptics eye new election gains | Mail Online.