German election 2017: Will anti-Islam AfD win their first seats?

Greg Heffer, News Reporter

Latest polls show there are four minor parties who could win seats in the German Bundestag at the country's federal election on 24 September.

Die Linke (The Left), Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), The Greens and Free Democratic Party (FDP) will all be scrapping for seats behind the Angela Merkel -led Union parties and their current coalition partners, Martin Schulz 's Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Under the country's electoral law, if a party fails to win constituency seats under first-past-the-post, it must gain more than 5% of second-votes in order to be handed seats under the proportional representation element of Bundestag elections.

So, who are the minor parties hoping for success at the ballot box?

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Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)

Latest poll rating: 11% (31 August Infratest dimap/ARD survey)

Only founded in 2013, the anti-immigration and anti-Islam AfD now appear to be on the cusp of becoming the first far-right party to be represented in the Bundestag since the end of the Second World War.

Polling at around 11% ahead of this month's federal election, AfD are also on course to become the third-largest party in German politics.

Despite having already won representation in 13 of Germany's state parliaments, winning seats for the first time at federal level will increase AfD's resources and ensure they remain part of the national debate.

The party's popularity surged as Europe's migration crisis in 2015 dominated German politics.

But AfD's poll ratings have since diminished since Mrs Merkel took a harder stance on asylum claims and helped push through the EU's controversial migrant deal with Turkey, which has stemmed the flow of people crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.

Amid internal power struggles, AfD's popularity took a nosedive earlier this year when party bosses were forced to try and expel one of their leading members.

Bjorn Hocke caused a national outrage after using a speech to claim Germany needed to perform a "180-degree turnaround'' in remembering the country's Nazi past.

His comments were criticised by party co-leader Frauke Petry, who once called for German border police to shoot "if necessary" at refugees trying to enter the country illegally.

She has since admitted defeat in her bid to move AfD to adopt more mainstream positions - in an attempt to foster cooperation with other parties - and subsequently taken a back seat in the federal election campaign.

The party's campaign is instead being led by AfD co-founder Alexander Gauland, who was recently accused of inciting racial hatred after he declared a German minister, of Turkish heritage, should be "disposed of" in Turkey.

Despite being set to win their first Bundestag seats, other parties have refused to work with AfD in the federal parliament, removing their chances of being in government.

Key policies: AfD are running on an election programme that declares Islam incompatible with German culture and calls for an immediate closure of the country's borders.

Die Linke (The Left)

Latest poll rating: 9%

Far-left Die Linke is currently the biggest of Germany's opposition parties with 64 seats in the Bundestag.

Formed in 2007 from SPD defectors and the successor party to East Germany's communists, Die Linke are hoping they can mirror Jeremy Corbyn's better-than-expected performance in the recent UK election.

Die Linke's chances of entering government appear to rely on the party entering a coalition with the SPD, but the electoral mathematics may make that impossible.

Key policies: Die Linke are calling for wealth to be redistributed, NATO to be replaced with a new organisation including Russia and for an end to German military combat missions.

Die Grünen (The Greens)

Latest poll rating: 8%

The Greens are the second-biggest German opposition party with a current 63 seats in the Bundestag.

But, unlike Die Linke, the party have a double chance of entering a coalition government with it possible both the SPD and Mrs Merkel's Union parties could chase a deal with the Greens, should the Bundestag arithmetic allow.

Despite wide representation within Germany's state parliaments, the Greens popularity has plummeted since they polled highs of more than 20% in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Their fall in support has, in the main, been caused by the increasing popularity of the SPD under new leader Mr Schulz, who has won back some of his party's previously disgruntled voters who deserted to the Greens.

Many of the Greens popular policies have also been adopted by Germany's main parties, squeezing their support.

Key policies: The Greens are calling for Germany's energy to be exclusively delivered by renewable sources by 2050 at the latest, for zero-emissions cars to be the only vehicles approved from 2030 and for an end to intensive factory farming over the next two decades.

FDP (Free Democratic Party)

Latest poll rating: 8%

The FDP suffered a disastrous result in the last federal election in 2013, when they failed to win a single seat in the Bundestag for the first time since 1949.

But, the party stand on the verge of a miraculous comeback to federal politics, which could even push them into power in a coalition with Mrs Merkel's Union parties.

Founded from pre-Second World War liberal parties, the FDP have a long history in the centre-ground of German politics.

Key policies: The FDP are promising to slash taxes, cut red tape and invest in Germany's digital infrastructure. They also want an overhaul of immigration law and eurozone reform.

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