German Far-right Nationalist Party Gains Momentum Ahead of Elections, Poll Shows

The populist Alternative for Germany party is in third place less than three weeks before national elections

Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party burns private fireworks during an election campaign tour by ship on the river Rhine near Krefeld, Germany, September 4, 2017.

The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has gained momentum less than three weeks before national elections, with a poll published on Tuesday showing the party as the third major political force in Europe's biggest economy.

The AfD has edged up 0.5 percentage points to reach its highest level of support since March at 10.5 percent in a weekly survey published in the daily Bild and drawn up by pollsters Infratest dimap.

The increase in the AfD vote pushed the party into third place in the race for the September 24 election behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian-based sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), fronted by Martin Schulz.

The poll adds to signs of the AfD becoming the first right-wing nationalist party to enter the German parliament, the Bundestag, since World War II.

The AfD has gained support in the wake of Merkel's decision two years ago to open Germany's borders to allow about 1 million refugees to enter the nation and to avert a national catastrophe on Europe's borders.

Both the CDU-CSU and the SPD slipped back 0.5 points in the Infratest dimap poll, with Merkel's political bloc coming in at 36.5 percent and the SPD edging down to 23.5 percent.