German AfD Party Loses Ground After China Spying Bombshell

(Bloomberg) -- Support for the far-right Alternative for Germany slipped two percentage points in a new poll for the European Parliament elections, suggesting allegations of links to Chinese intelligence are damaging the party.

Most Read from Bloomberg

Maximilian Krah, the AfD’s lead candidate for the June vote, said last week he’ll fire an aide who was detained and accused of spying for China.

The man, a German citizen the federal prosecutor identified as Jian G., is suspected of having passed on information about sensitive negotiations and decisions in the European Parliament, and of having spied on Chinese opposition members.

An Insa poll published Sunday on the European elections for Bild am Sonntag newspaper put the AfD in second place with 17%, down from 19% two weeks ago.

The conservative CDU/CSU leads with 29% support, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats at 16% and the Greens at 13%.

The Chinese espionage allegations are only the latest setback for the AfD. Petr Bystron — the party’s number-two candidate for the European elections — has denied taking money from a pro-Russia media outlet following reports of links to the organization.

Bjoern Hoecke, the head of the party in the eastern state of Thuringia, is on trial for using a Nazi slogan at a rally, and the party has also been damaged by revelations about a meeting where mass deportations were discussed that echoed policies pursued by Adolf Hitler.

The AfD said Sunday that reports in German media asserting Bystron told party leaders last week he’d received packets of cash were false.

“At the meeting in question, he did not claim to have received or accepted any packages,” the party said in an emailed statement.

Read more: Germany Arrests Three Suspected of Spying for Chinese State

Krah remains the AfD’s lead candidate for the time being, but he didn’t take part as originally planned in a campaign-launch event on Saturday in Baden-Wuerttemberg with party leaders Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla.

“I would like to thank Maximilian Krah for saying: This launch today should not be about Krah, Krah, Krah,” Chrupalla said at the start of his speech, according to local media.

“This is about the AfD today,” Chrupalla added. “Because we are the party for which Germany comes first, and then the party and then the person. So thank you very much, dear Max, for saying today that this is about the program.”

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said if the allegations against Jian G. prove accurate, it would constitute “an attack from within on European democracy.”

“All connections and background will be investigated in detail, in accordance with the rule of law,” Faeser was quoted as saying Sunday by Bild. “This is what distinguishes us from the dictatorships that the AfD so reveres.”

In Insa’s regular poll for Bild on the national German election, the AfD held steady on 18%, down from a peak of 23% around the turn of the year.

(Updates with AfD statement starting in eighth paragraph)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.