German far-right party ahead in east before regional votes

FILE PHOTO: A supporter of Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party takes shelter from rain under a German flag, during an election campaign in Cottbus, Germany, July 13, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has taken the lead in the east of the country ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), just a month before regional elections there, an opinion poll showed on Sunday.

The AfD is favored by 23% of voters in the former east, ahead of the CDU on 22%, the far-left Linke on 14%, the Greens on 13% and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) on 11%, according to a poll in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

The AfD entered Germany’s national parliament for the first time in 2017 as the third largest party, helped by voter anger at Merkel’s decision to welcome asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa.

The eastern states of Brandenburg and Saxony hold regional elections on Sept. 1, followed by Thuringia a month later.

Defeats for the SPD in Brandenburg, where it has won all of the last six elections there since German reunification in 1990, and the CDU in Saxony would put more pressure on the coalition partners to rethink their alliance in national government.

Sunday’s poll was conducted by Emnid among 1,419 people on July 25-31.

At the national level, the poll showed the AfD up one percentage point at 14%, the SPD down a point at just 13%, the CDU steady at 26%, the Greens on 23%, the Free Democrats on 9% and the Linke on 8%.

Reporting by Emma Thomasson; editing by David Evans