Long consigned to the fringes of German political life, a number of right-wing extremist groups are using growing resentment towards Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's economic reforms to take their radical views mainstream. For weeks, tens of thousands of Germans have taken to the streets each Monday to protest against the government's plans to reform the country's labour market and cut unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. The demonstrations have been supported by a broad leftist coalition including the successor to East Germany's communist party, unionists and globalisation opponents. But radical right-wingers, including those with ties to neo- Nazis and skinhead groups, decided to piggyback their agendas onto the protests to tap the public's anger ahead of elections in three German states this month. 'The heated mood of protest at the moment is driving a lot of people to both the extreme left and the extreme right,' said Oskar Niedermayer, a political scientist at the Free University in Berlin. The Monday demonstrations, modelled on the weekly protests that helped bring down East Germany's communist regime in 1989, have quickly become the preferred venue for anyone opposed to Mr Schroeder's efforts to overhaul Germany's generous yet untenable social welfare system. With unemployment in eastern Germany running twice the level in the more prosperous west, more easterners are demonstrating against slashing benefits for the long-term jobless. Many have deserted Mr Schroeder's Social Democrats to give their support to the Party of Democratic Socialism, which was born from East Germany's communist party, or, increasingly, the extreme right. 'It isn't right. They are playing upon people's fears,' Mr Schroeder said in a television interview this week, referring to both the hard left and far right. Two right-wing parties in particular - the anti-immigrant and populist DVU and the neo-Nazi NPD - hope to capitalise on the situation in elections in the eastern states of Brandenburg and Saxony. Alongside campaign posters lambasting the government for its reform plans, hang others with slogans including 'Criminal Foreigners Out!' and 'German Jobs for Germans First!' Besides dismaying left-wing protesters, the increasing number of neo-Nazi skinheads showing up at the Monday demonstrations also has Germany's Verfassungsschutz, the country's domestic intelligence agency, concerned. 'We're obviously keeping an eye on things ahead of the elections,' a Verfassungsschutz spokesman said. Dr Niedermayer said the extreme right was cleverly tapping frustrations of easterners who still suffer from unresolved economic woes of reunification, adding the DVU and NPD both stood a good chance of winning state seats.