Germany's Right-wing AfD Set to Become Third Biggest Party, Polls Suggest

Their parties now govern together in a coalition of traditional rivals.

Henry Kissinger once famously summed up Germany's problems by saying that it was "too big for Europe, too small for the world". "But Theresa May should expect no special deal on Brexit from Germany after the election", Nicolai von Ondarza, of Berlin's German Institute for worldwide and Security Affairs, said.

Merkel has pledged to get Germany's current 5.7 per cent unemployment rate, down from 11 per cent when she took office in 2005, to "full employment" by 2025.

Macron's idea of the eurozone being able to borrow money collectively is also acutely sensitive in Germany, while his proposal for a eurozone parliament has few takers at present.

And she offers a steady hand internationally, with long experience of European Union negotiating marathons, tough talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and now of engaging cautiously with US President Donald Trump.

They put Schulz's SPD around or below the 23 per cent they won in their worst showing yet in post-Second World War Germany, which was recorded in 2009, the report said.

He had also sparked outrage when he said integration commissioner Aydan Ozoguz should be "disposed of in Anatolia", suggesting that she will never be German because of her Turkish origin.

The hard part may be forming a new government. The Free Democrats are her old coalition partners.

Merkel's CDU is looking most likely to win the most seats in the Bundestag - for the fourth election in a row.

These centrifugal forces among the electorate posed a huge challenge for Die Linke, which ultimately responded with a kind of schizophrenic division of labor: party co-chair Katja Kipping tried to relate to the refugee movement politically, while leading candidate Sahra Wagenknecht made overtures to those whose response to the refugee movement was primarily one of fear. The Greens want a faster transition away from gas and diesel cars and a wealth tax on the rich - neither of which the conservatives are likely to swallow. They would need another partner. Schulz and his S.P.D. allies share a problem with traditional center-left parties across Europe and in this country: an inability to forcefully articulate what they stand for, even when they do stand for something, in a way that is credible to voters.

AfD has swung right since it narrowly missed entering parliament in 2013.

Alternative for Germany party plans to launch an investigation into Merkel' decision to open borders in 2015.

Many of Merkel's campaign appearances have been marked by loud heckling from pro-nationalist demonstrators.

The impact of Ms Merkel on the European Union has been "huge and underestimated", said Mr Kornelius.

That could see the AfD as the chancellor's main opposition in parliament. He also prefers their anti-immigrant stance.

The so-called "Schulz-effect" saw the Social Democrats surge in the polls, and a YouTube song captured the enthusiasm with the lyrics: "The Schulz train is rolling, and it has no brakes, it's running at full steam to the chancellery".

A voter can vote for a constituent from one party, but then vote for another party's list, effectively splitting their vote.

Perhaps the best explanation for the late resurgence of the AfD is the perceived inevitability of another four years of Merkel as chancellor and a sense that no matter whom she governs with, little will change.

"There is someone who wants to administer the past".

With many voters viewing a fourth term for Merkel as nearly inevitable and put off by a turgid campaign - occasionally punctured by heckling and tomato hurling in protest at Merkel's refugee policy - pollsters say turnout may be low.

"In our view, the outcome of the German election could have implications for the balance of power in the EU, especially in the Franco-German relationship", says David Zahn, head of European fixed income at Franklin Templeton investments. "He is called Martin Schulz".

  • Rogelio Becker