Record surge for far-right Afd in Germany after regional elections

Sunday’s big loser was the Social Democratic Party of chancellor Olaf Scholz, halfway through his first term in Berlin

Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) achieved another political milestone on Sunday with strong gains and record results after state elections in two important western states.

First post-election forecasts in Bavaria and Hesse placed the AfD in second or third place as voters, worried by record immigration, punished the three coalition partners ruling in Berlin under Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

In Bavaria and Hesse, with a combined population of 18 million, post-poll forecasts gave the AfD about 16 and 17 per cent respectively. A decade after its rise as an anti-bailout party, its pivot to far-right, xenophobic populism has attracted 35 per cent support in some eastern states with elections next year.

“We can all be extremely proud of this result this evening,” said Alice Weidel, co-AfD leader, to supporters. “These are only forecasts but are so good that they beat everything to date, you are all on the right path.”


Sunday’s big loser was the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of chancellor Olaf Scholz, halfway through his first term in Berlin.

Projections indicated a historical disastrous SPD result of just 16 per cent in Hesse, in fourth place behind the AfD; in Bavaria it finished fifth on just 8.4 per cent.

Meanwhile, the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was the clear winner in Hesse, scoring an eight-point leap in support, returning to power after a moderate conservative law and order campaign.

In neighbouring Bavaria its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), will continue a six-decade run in power. But its populist anti-immigrant campaign saw it post small losses, while two populist rivals secured record support.

The results were so bad for the SPD and its bickering Berlin allies, the Greens and liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), that one key coalition figure called it a “bitter evening in both states”.

“We are neither deaf nor blind,” said Kevin Kühnert, SPD general secretary in Berlin. “We see the three coalition parties lost in both states and we should recognise, in these results, the message for us.”

Sunday evening exit polls suggested the FDP might even be dumped out of both Hessian and Bavarian parliaments.

As the evening wore on, CDU and CSU figures increased pressure on chancellor Scholz, offering cross-party support to drive down record immigrant numbers and push back the protest vote for the AfD.

“We have to act now, otherwise this country will be so overwhelmed... that humanity will be lost,” said Carsten Linemann, CDU secretary general. “We have to keep our humanity and that will only function if... we are really open for people who have a real reason for fleeing their homeland.”

Political scientist Karl-Rudolf Korte saw in Sunday’s election a signal that Germany’s political centre remains strong, but a “right-wing shift is under way in German political discourse”.

“That is now visible in election results,” said Prof Korte, political scientist, University of Duisburg-Essen. “The AfD is a now pan-German force. There is protest vote here but also a fear-of-the-future vote of the outraged and exhausted.”

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin