If the leaders of Germany's rising right-wing nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party are to be believed, the country is heading for electoral upheaval this Sunday that will change its political landscape for good.

"The AfD is flying high and nothing can stop it," Andre Poggenburg, the party's top candidate in the impoverished eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, said at a campaign rally last month.

Fuelled by popular discontent over a huge influx of mostly Muslim migrants, his party is tearing into Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative voter base ahead of three state elections that will set the scene for a national poll in 2017.

The latest data shows the AfD winning a record vote share in Saxony-Anhalt, which - alongside the south-western states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate - is heading to the ballot box in five days' time.

The AfD is polling at a record 19 per cent in Saxony-Anhalt, 12.5 per cent in Baden-Wuerttemberg and 9 per cent in Rhineland-Palatinate. This means it is as good as certain to clear the 5-per-cent hurdle required to enter all three state parliaments.

The AfD has come a long way since its establishment as an anti-euro party during Europe's debt crisis in 2013. Its founder Bernd Lucke envisioned a party that was classically liberal in philosophy and eschewed the traditional language of the right and left.

The party's fortunes went into decline last year amid bitter infighting between its far-right and more moderate factions that eventually resulted in Lucke's ouster.

As discontent grew over Merkel's decision to open Germany's borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants, the party mounted a comeback as a right-wing entity under the helm of entrepreneur-turned-politician Frauke Petry.

But the AfD's oft-repeated designation as a protest party is "no longer appropriate," says Matthias Jung, head of the polling firm Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, adding that the party has succeeded where other post-war nationalist entities have failed.

It already sits in five state parliaments - Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia in the former east, and in the city states Hamburg and Bremen - and has extended its manifesto beyond its anti-euro beginnings and its current platform of tighter immigration controls.

Its mix of right-wing policies include tighter controls on abortions to make way for more German children, a referendum on plans to build mosques with minarets and a free-trade agreement with Russia to promote German business interests.

Missteps by its leaders - two of whom recently argued that border police should be allowed the use of firearms to stop migrants illegally entering Germany - have failed to halt the AfD's ascent, and attempts by established politicians to push it to the margins have also come up short.

Social Democrat leader Sigmar Gabriel - vice chancellor to Merkel - recently said the AfD should be monitored by German intelligence agents, while Guenther Oettinger, a German EU commissioner, said that he would shoot himself if Petry were his wife.

"Marginalizing the AfD will backfire - it's an absolute non-starter," says Jung, adding that the party's anti-establishment status appeals to many voters, especially those in the former east that do not feel adequately represented in Berlin.

Experts say Germany's long-standing political status quo in which two major parties - Merkel's Christian Democrats and the centre-left Social Democrats - dominate by forming coalitions either with each other or smaller closely-aligned allies is a thing of the past.

"The elections have the potential of being another important step in a subtle and lingering process of structural change in Germanpolitics," says ING chief economist Carsten Breski. A resurgent AfD would mark "the end of Germany's immunity against populism."

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.