June 14. 2024. 2:14

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German government suffers crushing defeat in European Election 

Germany’s self-proclaimed ‘progressive coalition’, consisting of Social Democrats, the liberal FDP and the Greens, suffered a crushing defeat at the European elections, as the parties barely managed to reach a combined share of 30%.

The European elections marked an unprecedented shift to the right in Germany: While the centre-right CDU/CSU of Commission President Ursula on der Leyen came first with roughly 30.2%, the far-right AfD outperformed chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD, taking second place at around 16%.

“This is a serious election defeat for the SPD primarily due to domestic policy. We will have to discuss how we deal with this in the committees tomorrow,” the SPD’s lead MP on EU affairs, Christian Petry, told Euractiv on Sunday (10 June).

Katarina Barley, SPD lead candidate and vice-president of the EU Parliament, called the election “a really bitter night.”

While the SPD suffered the worst national election result in its history at only 14% of the vote, the FDP and the Greens also incurred heavy losses, with the former losing 8.6 percentage points and the latter attracting only 5.1%.

“The result is a heavy defeat for us,” Green MP Anton Hofreiter, leader of the European Affairs committee in the Bundestag, told Euractiv, bemoaning losses among young voters.

While the Greens tried to reframe their signature topic of climate protection in pragmatic terms of economic growth and security, voters were not swayed by the party’s new profile

The EU elections were a litmus test for the 2025 national elections. This puts particular pressure on the FDP, which came dangerously close to falling below the 5% threshold required to enter the German parliament.

After the FDP suffered defeats in regional elections, it had already been trying to assume a more dominant role in the coalition, leading to Germany abstaining in crucial votes at the EU level.

With the Liberals now fearing that they will fail to enter the Bundestag – like in 2013 – they are likely to be even less conciliatory.

Centre-right targets the chancellory

Meanwhile, CDU officials hinted that they see the outcome as a step towards retaking the chancellery.

As the CDU/CSU party family bounced back to 30% and surpassed its 2019 EU result, the election marked its comeback in its first national ballot since it lost the chancellorship in 2021.

This is testimony to the CDU’s stabilisation under new leader Friedrich Merz, although it remained behind the best results of its former Chancellor Angela Merkel, despite Scholz’s unpopular government.

“I take this result as a great encouragement to continue our work in the coming months,” said Merz, who is in the pole position to run for chancellor. “Today, we have achieved our first big success together [on this journey].”

Gunther Krichbaum, the party’s lead MP on EU affairs, was more straightforward, calling the result a boost for the national election: “[Now] it is clear that [the] government does not have a best-before date of 21 September 2025, but an expiry date of 9 June 2024,” he told Euractiv.

“Putin must be laughing up his sleeve”

Exit polls confirmed indeed that more than half of voters made their choice based on national policies.

This appears to have benefited populist parties, however, that were the other big winners: Alongside the AfD’s success, the new left-conservative Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW), made up of former members of the progressive Die Linke, outperformed its old party and the FDP at 6% in its first-ever election.

According to exit polls, 87% of AfD and 71% of BSW voters said they decided based on national considerations – more than those of other parties.

Their success may send problematic signals for Germany’s discourse on Russia’s war in Ukraine as “securing peace” emerged as the most crucial topic in the election, determining the choices of more than a quarter of voters (26%), ahead of social security (23%) and migration (17%).

Aside from championing a tough stance on migration, both BSW and AfD stand out for their vocal resistance against sanctions on Russia and weapon deliveries to Ukraine.

The rift was underlined in the post-election television debate as BSW co-leader Sahra Wagenknecht and AfD co-leader Alice Weidel clashed with other party leaders over their doveish stance on Russia.

“Putin must be laughing up his sleeve,” commented Krichbaum.

Voters’ fears dominate German EU election campaign

Fears surrounding war, social security, and the far-right have dominated Germany’s EU election campaign, as parties have responded with remarkably uniform messaging about protecting peace and security, eyeing national elections.

Read more with Euractiv

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Volt’s federalists consider joining Renew in EU Parliament, leaving Greens

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