BERLIN (Reuters) - Backing for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) has risen further amid infighting among Germany’s ruling parties over how to handle the refugee crisis, a poll showed on Sunday.
The Emnid poll for the newspaper Bild am Sonntag put support for the AfD on nine percent, up one percentage point from last week and at the same level as the radical Left Party, which lost one percentage point.
In eastern Germany, which has seen violent protests against refugees in recent months, support for the AfD was particularly strong at 14 percent and even higher among east German men at 18 percent.
The AfD has taken a tough stance on immigration and is benefiting from a backlash over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “open doors” policy, as worries grow over how Germany will cope with up to one million migrants arriving this year.
“The AfD is the only party in Germany which unashamedly exploits prejudice among parts of the population towards foreigners,” political scientist Ulrich von Alemann told Bild am Sonntag.
The AfD has attacked the government’s policy, calling it “asylum chaos” and the party’s deputy leader has accused Merkel of “people smuggling” for allowing thousands of asylum seekers into the country after they got stuck on the Hungarian border.
Some 5,000 AfD supporters marched in Berlin on Saturday in a protest against Merkel’s asylum policies under the banner, “Asylum has its limits. Red card for Merkel.”
Ralf Stegner, deputy chairman of the Social Democrats (SPD) who share power with Merkel’s conservatives, said on Saturday right-wing parties like the AfD could make further gains if the coalition failed to work together to solve the refugee issue.
In the poll of 2,442 people conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov. 4, the SPD gained one point to 26 percent, while support for Merkel’s conservatives (CDU) was unchanged at 36 percent.
The opposition Greens and pro-business Free Democrats were unchanged at 10 percent and 4 percent respectively.
Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Andrew Bolton and Jon Boyle