#EP2024: What the European elections mean for federal politics

#EP2024: What the European elections mean for federal politics

The Netherlands have already voted – now things are getting serious in the other countries. However, the first results will not be available until late Sunday evening – this is due to a certain EU country.

Who will control European policy from Strasbourg and Brussels in the future? This question is at the heart of the election, which around 65 million people in Germany are called to vote in on Sunday. The first and only nationwide vote between the 2021 and 2025 federal elections will also be a barometer of the political situation in Berlin.

After two and a half years in power, will the traffic light government really be punished as harshly as the polls suggest? How strong will the AfD be? And how will the election debut of Sahra Wagenknecht’s new party go? Last but not least, the election could also be important for a candidate for chancellor.

Crash test for the traffic lights: How do Scholz and Co. perform?

In the 2021 federal election, the three governing parties SPD, Greens and FDP together achieved just under 52 percent. After two and a half years in government, they are now only achieving 31 to 33 percent in the polls for the European elections. So the question is: How bitter will election night be for the traffic light coalition?

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD had already achieved its worst result in a nationwide vote in the 2019 European elections, with 15.8 percent. If it undercuts that this time, which seems quite possible according to the polls, Scholz would also have to take the blame. During the election campaign, he deliberately placed himself in the front row next to top candidate Katarina Barley, had posters put up with her and appeared at several major events. Recently, however, the SPD’s election defeats at the state level have not led to any major discussions about the party’s course or chancellor. They have been tolerated in silence. Let’s see if that remains the case in the event of another historic defeat.

However, the Greens have suffered the greatest fall of all the traffic light parties, with a result of 20.5 percent in the previous European elections. In the polls, they are now at 13 to 15 percent. It remains to be seen whether the party will achieve its self-imposed goal of finishing ahead of the AfD. However, it is unlikely that the Greens will take out their frustration over a possible election defeat on the coalition. Despite all the quarrels, the party remains firmly behind the traffic light coalition and its own government responsibility.

In response to lost elections, the FDP has recently been the party most likely to cause trouble in the coalition government. And the Liberals could even undercut the already very modest 5.4 percent they received in the last election, even though they have nominated a high-profile top candidate in the form of defense politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann. In the polls they are at 4 to 5 percent.

Will an election victory help Merz on his way to becoming a candidate for chancellor?

The Union also sees the first nationwide election since its disaster in the 2021 federal election as an opportunity to demonstrate its comeback. According to the polls, with stable values ​​of around 30 percent, the Union has every chance of becoming the strongest force. CDU chairman Friedrich Merz and CSU leader Markus Söder are likely to view the result on election night as a plebiscite against the policies of Chancellor Scholz’s traffic light government.

Merz, who was confirmed as CDU leader for the first time at the beginning of May with almost 90 percent of the vote, could interpret a result in this region as a sign of his consolidated internal position of power. The Union’s grandees are likely to be cautious in interpreting whether the European elections can be interpreted as a signal or even a preliminary decision on the Union’s internal K question. On the one hand, Merz is considered by many to be the most likely candidate for chancellor – if he wants to. Söder and NRW Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst are still considered other possible candidates. The Union wants to clarify its question of chancellor candidate after the elections in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg in September.

How strong will the shift to the right be?

As in the rest of Europe, the question in Germany is how strong the right-wing parties will become. The AfD can expect to gain, but probably not as much as seemed possible a few months ago. At the beginning of the year, it looked as if it could double its result of 11 percent in the last European elections. Then came the large demonstrations following reports of a right-wing meeting in Potsdam and weeks of headlines about possible Russia and China involvement of the two AfD top candidates, Maximilian Krah and Petr Bystron. Most recently, the AfD was at 14 to 17 percent in the polls. It is unclear what influence the knife attack in Mannheim, just over a week before the election, could have on the AfD result.

It will also be interesting to see whether the AfD can strengthen its position at the lowest political level. In parallel to the European elections, local elections are taking place in eight federal states. In Thuringia, the AfD made significant gains in many district and city councils in the local elections two weeks ago. There will be run-off elections there this Sunday to fill numerous district administrator and mayoral posts.

Will Wagenknecht’s party pass its first test?

The European elections are the first test for the Sahra Wagenknecht alliance, which was founded in January. The party founder was the central figure in the election campaign – even though she is not running for the European Parliament herself. Since May 15, the 54-year-old has held 18 rallies nationwide as part of a “Sahra is Coming” tour, each of which, according to party sources, attracted several hundred people. Peace in Ukraine, heating laws and the ban on combustion engines, pensions, migration – Wagenknecht puts her finger on the social pressure points with sometimes shrill criticism of the traffic light coalition, and her supporters are often enthusiastic.

Nevertheless, Wagenknecht recently seemed somewhat unsure how much her party could really score in its first election. In autumn 2023, she had said that she was hoping for a double-digit result in the European elections. Now she says: “I’m hoping for five percent plus. That would be a sensational success for a party that is six months old.” Polls recently actually put the BSW at five to seven percent.

Source: Stern

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