In the European elections, CDU/CSU become the strongest force in Germany ahead of the AfD – SPD and Greens collapse

The Union wins the European elections in Germany by a wide margin, ahead of the AfD. The CDU and CSU together gain 30 percent. The AfD improves significantly. The SPD and the Greens suffer heavy losses. Sahra Wagenknecht is very satisfied with her party’s election performance.

A landslide victory for the Union, a slap in the face for the traffic light coalition and clear gains for the AfD: Germany has moved to the right in the European elections. After all 400 districts have been counted, the AfD is in second place nationwide, and even in first place in the east. The SPD, Greens and FDP have suffered losses and together only receive just under a third of the votes. The Left Party also collapsed and was overtaken by Sahra Wagenknecht’s new BSW party.

According to the Federal Returning Officer, the Union increased slightly to 30 percent (2019: 28.9 percent). The AfD achieved its best result to date in a nationwide vote with 15.9 percent (2019: 11 percent) – but it was lower than interim poll results. In East Germany, the party is by far the strongest force. The SPD, which also relied on Chancellor Olaf Scholz as a figurehead in the election campaign, dropped to 13.9 percent (15.8) – its worst result ever in a nationwide election. The Greens slipped to 11.9 percent (20.5). The FDP lost only slightly, reaching 5.2 percent (5.4).

The Left ended up with a meager 2.7 percent (5.5) – its worst result in European elections. The BSW party achieved 6.2 percent straight away. The Free Voters received 2.7 percent (2.2), the Volt party was at 2.6 percent (0.7).

In contrast to federal and state elections, there is no threshold for the European elections in Germany, i.e. a five percent hurdle. According to projections, voter turnout is 65 percent. In 2019, it was 61.4 percent, at which time Germany was in fifth place among the 27 EU states. For the first time, 16- and 17-year-olds were allowed to vote in a European election in Germany.

“Bitter defeat”

SPD leader Lars Klingbeil described the election result as a “bitter defeat”. “There is no way to sugarcoat it,” he said at the SPD headquarters in Berlin. “I think it is crystal clear that things have to change.” SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert expressed similar views. But there was no need to discuss Chancellor Scholz personally.

Former SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel questioned the party leadership of Klingbeil and Saskia Esken: “With 14 percent, no one has an undisputed right to lead the SPD,” he told the “Tagesspiegel”. “In the SPD, everyone who bears responsibility, such as the elected party leadership, must now think about their responsibility: What part do they have in this debacle?” The election result was also “a resounding slap in the face” for the traffic light coalition.

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Merz: Last warning for the traffic light

CDU leader Friedrich Merz called on the federal government to correct its course in the next few days. This is urgently necessary in the interests of the country. Election night is now “the real last warning” for the traffic light coalition before the federal election next year. The coalition of the SPD, Greens and FDP is damaging Germany. This applies to domestic policy, for example with the decisions on migration issues, but also to economic policy. CSU leader Markus Söder said: “The traffic light coalition has de facto been voted out by the citizens.”

AfD leader Tino Chrupalla called his party’s result “historic”. “I hear that we are now the strongest force in the East in this election, there is no greater tailwind,” he said, referring to the upcoming state elections in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg in September.

Green Party leader Ricarda Lang reacted with disappointment to her party’s loss of votes. “That is not the claim we went into this election with, and we will work through it together,” said the co-party leader.

The FDP’s top candidate, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, stressed that the party had more or less maintained its result from the last European elections. “The fact that it is now at a stable five percent is good news,” she said at the party headquarters in Berlin. General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai avoided the question of whether he still had confidence in the Chancellor. “That is not what it is about now,” said Djir-Sarai.

Left disappointed, BSW satisfied

Left Party leader Martin Schirdewan spoke of a bitter evening. The Left Party had not succeeded in getting its issues across, even though they were linked to people’s everyday concerns – wages, rents, price developments, redistribution from top to bottom, social climate protection and peace policy. They had not been able to prevail against the shift to the right and the inertia of the other parties.

BSW party founder Wagenknecht said she was happy and relieved about her alliance’s performance. There is “great potential” that she wants to develop in the next elections. Wagenknecht reiterated that she believes a diplomatic initiative is necessary in Russia’s war against Ukraine. “Many people are worried that the war will come to us too.”

Europe-wide centre-right victory

Across Europe, the centre-right EPP alliance won with the German lead candidate Ursula von der Leyen. According to an initial official forecast by the European Parliament, the CDU politician can hope for a second term as President of the EU Commission despite strong gains by far-right parties. Overall, the clearly pro-European camp remains by far the largest.

In many EU countries, including Germany, a plus for right-wing parties was expected even before the election. Polls had put the AfD at more than 20 percent at one point. However, allegations against its top candidate Maximilian Krah and the number two on the European election list, Petr Bystron, got the party into trouble. Both made headlines because of possible connections to pro-Russian networks, and in Krah’s case there are also possible connections to China.

Bystron is being investigated on suspicion of bribery and money laundering. Krah, a member of the European Parliament since 2019, recently received massive criticism for trivializing statements about the SS, the so-called Schutzstaffel of the National Socialists. The AfD’s federal executive board then called on Krah to stop appearing in the election campaign. As a result, the right-wing ID (Identity and Democracy) group in the European Parliament excluded all German AfD MPs.

Around 360 million citizens in the 27 EU states were eligible to vote, of which almost 61 million were Germans. From Thursday to Sunday, 720 representatives for the new European Parliament were elected – depending on the country – 96 of them in Germany on the last day.

In parallel to the European elections, elections were also held at the local level in eight federal states: Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. In Thuringia, numerous district administrators and mayors were also elected in run-off elections.

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