After Far-right Demos, AfD Overtakes German Social Democrats

The AfD, the third-biggest party in last year's election and main opposition, seized on the killing of a 35-year old German in Chemnitz

FILE PHOTO: Far-right protesters wave German flags as they walk behind a barrage of riot police during a demonstration, Chemnitz, Germany, September 1, 2018.
AFP

Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has overtaken the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), a poll showed on Tuesday, days after some of the most violent protests by radical right-wingers the country has seen in decades.

Some 6,000 supporters of the AfD and anti-Islam PEGIDA joined protests in the eastern city of Chemnitz on Saturday following other demonstrations last week after a man was stabbed to death there on Aug. 26. Two immigrants were arrested for the killing.

An INSA poll on Tuesday put the AfD up half a percentage point at 17 percent, with the SPD, who share power with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, slipping by the same amount to 16 percent. Merkel's conservative bloc was on 28.5 percent.

Germany's next electoral test comes on Oct. 14 when Merkel's Bavarian allies face a major challenge from the AfD for state government.

The AfD, the third-biggest party in last year's election and main opposition, seized on the killing of a 35-year old German in Chemnitz and the subsequent arrests of a Syrian and Iraqi to ramp up criticism of Merkel's open-door asylum policy.

Prosecutors said on Tuesday they are looking for a third suspect and Der Spiegel reported there was some doubt about the identity of two already under arrest.

Pictures showed skinheads at last week's protests chasing migrants through the streets, hurling bottles and fireworks and some even making the Hitler salute, illegal in Germany.

Calls have mounted for the domestic intelligence agency to place the AfD under surveillance.

Bjoern Hoecke, an AfD leader from the state of Thuringia who has criticised Germany's main memorial to the victims of the Holocaust as a "monument of shame" and wantsGermany to re-write its history books, took part in Saturday's march in Chemnitz.

In a show of resistance against the right-wing "mob", some 65,000 people attended a rock concert "against xenophobia" on Monday night in Chemnitz given by mostly left-leaning groups.