December 13, 2023 - 10:00am

Polls should always be taken with a grain of salt, but the numbers coming out of Germany suggest that the biggest Right-wing wave since the end of the Second World War could be emerging. What is brewing across the country is no longer the usual ebb and flow of electoral politics, but instead the prelude to a coming revolt at the voting booth. 

There are several conditions that have laid the groundwork for an insurgent populist revolt. The German economy continues to shrink, and even the much hoped-for rebound in 2024 could turn out to be a disappointment, according to recent forecasts. Additionally, the education system just scored its worst results in the international PISA performance assessment, which is in part due to the disastrous immigration policies that have overwhelmed many schools with non-German speaking students. This has made the teaching of core materials increasingly challenging in a system that is already notoriously short on teachers. 

Looming over all of this, however, is the growing fear of deindustrialisation: a word that strikes at the heart of German identity and traditional pride in being a nation of engineers. Taken together, then, it’s no wonder that German pessimism has reached its highest level since 1950. Within the EU, only the Bulgarians are gloomier about the future.

This dissatisfaction is making parties out of power ever more attractive: whether it is the traditional conservatives or the more hardline AfD, frustrated voters are moving to the Right. As an electoral district analysis for the June 2024 EU elections shows, Right-wing parties like the CDU and AfD are surging ahead. Meanwhile, the Greens currently stand at 12%, and their fellow coalition partners SPD and FDP are at 12% and 3% respectively. As for upcoming state elections next year, in all three states — Brandenburg, Thuringia, Saxonia — the AfD is predicted to become the strongest party.

Although new elections are not scheduled to take place before autumn 2025, if the general election were held now Scholz’s SPD would score a meagre 14% of the vote. Indeed, the Chancellor’s personal approval rating makes for especially grim reading: only one-fifth of the German public is satisfied with his performance, the lowest figure for a sitting chancellor since the poll’s beginning in 1997. 

Things are going from bad to worse for the German government. Recently, the country’s constitutional court ruled against the coalition’s budget plans, placing an unexpected strain on the finances of the EU’s largest economy. Without the ability to finance future government handouts, several projects — ranging from climate to support for Ukraine — could be in jeopardy, creating additional easy targets for opposition parties.

Based on current trends, it is possible — even likely — that the Right will continue to surge. Germans are frustrated, and there are no signs that this is going to change anytime soon. If Olaf Scholz wants to turn things around, he will have to do so pretty quickly.