Euroskeptic Party Nears 5 Percent Hurdle

Euroskeptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD) is approaching the 5 percent hurdle required to win seats the Bundestag.

Euroskeptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD) is approaching the 5 percent hurdle required to win seats the Bundestag.

By Friederike Heine

Support for Germany's euroskeptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD) rose to an unprecedented high of 4 percent on Wednesday, raising the possibility that it could win seats Germany's parliament, the Bundestag. A poll by Forsa -- one of the country's main polling companies -- showed the party within one percentage point of the hurdle required to enter the Bundestag's lower house.

Until recently, support for the party has hovered around the 3 percent mark, with commentators stating that the party was unlikely to make significant progress before the September 22 election. But last month the euro crisis was once again thrust onto the public agenda when German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble announced that Greece would need another bailout. Eyperts say this could be contributing to the AfD's growing popularity.

Peter Matuscheck, chief political analyst at Forsa, says that he wouldn't be surprised if the party did make it into the Bundestag. "There's a good chance there will be more AfD voters coming out of the woodwork," he says. "Many people are too embaressed to admit that they are planning to vote for the AfD."

Party leader Bernd Lucke recently stated that the country's polling industry was part of a conspiracy to keep the party down, so pollsters aren't very popular among AfD sympathizers. "Lucke's recent comments mean that some of his supporters are refusing to speak to us, which inevitably introduces a degree of bias into the data," says Matuschek.

Temporary Fluctuation

Research subsequently conducted by Forsa sheds some light on the demographic trends within the AfD's prospective voter base. The findings confirm that the party is eating into the vote share of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), with 28 percent of AfD sympathizers having voted for the CDU at the 2009 election. Another 15 percent previously voted SPD, while 14 percent chose the business-friendly Free Democrats. 15 percent refrained from voting altogether at the previous election.

Were the anti-euro party to win seats in parliament, it could decrease Merkel's chances of forming another coalition with the Free Democrats. This could, in turn, increase the chances of a grand coalition between Merkel's conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats.

Though political commentators argue that the AfD seems to be gaining traction, some warn that Forsa's poll may be nothing more than a temporary fluctuation. "The standard margin of error is about two percentage points," says Andrea Wolf of Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, which conducts election polls for public broadcasting company ZDF. "This means that the strength of smaller parties like the AfD is often misrepresented."

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