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Polls Show Germany's Far-Right Party Grows In Popularity


Germany's political mainstream likes to dismiss the ascent of the far-right in that country. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel may no longer be able to ignore it. The nationalist party, which is called Alternative for Germany, is now in second place in voter polls, closing in on Merkel and her party. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: It's been a bad month for Angela Merkel. The chancellor's hard-won coalition that governs here was in danger of collapsing again, this time over public anger on how officials dealt with the domestic intelligence chief and allegations he empathizes with Germany's far-right. The fight escalated when the interior minister announced he would move the beleaguered spy chief to a better government job with more pay. That bumble led to a rare public apology from Merkel yesterday.



NELSON: She said her failure to take into account what the public thought about the promotion is something she regrets very much. Her concession bolstered what the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AFD, has been telling German voters all along - your government doesn't listen to you. Alexander Gauland is a top leader in the party.


ALEXANDER GAULAND: (Speaking German).

NELSON: He gleefully told public broadcaster ARD if they keep fighting about things that give us higher percentages, they should go ahead and keep doing that. Gauland was referring to recent polls that show AFD continues to benefit the most from Merkel's political missteps and is now German voters' No. 2 choice. That's an astounding feat for what began as a fringe party with the euroskeptic platform 5 1/2 years ago. AFD is currently the main opposition party in the German Parliament. Many EU leaders, meanwhile, are watching the German political turmoil with trepidation, says Daniela Schwarzer, the director of the German Council on Foreign Relations.

DANIELA SCHWARZER: Partners of Germany, at this point, are most worried about a weak leadership in Germany, so a chancellor who is under pressure domestically and who can't advance as she might want on European affairs, for instance in solving issues in the eurozone and tackling the migration crisis or moving ahead with European defense cooperation.

NELSON: There is likely more political trouble ahead for the German chancellor. On October 14, the powerful state of Bavaria is holding elections. Merkel's conservative allies there are projected to lose their absolute majority in the state legislature to Alternative for Germany.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.