European elections: Union wins – traffic light collapses – AfD celebrates

European elections: Union wins – traffic light collapses – AfD celebrates

The European elections are the only nationwide mood test between the federal elections. The result will increase nervousness in the traffic light coalition – and give new impetus to a debate about the candidate for chancellor.

A dark evening for the traffic light coalition: According to the first forecasts, the SPD, Greens and FDP together did not even get a third of the votes in the European elections and all ended up behind the AfD. The AfD did not get as strong a vote as was expected a few months ago, but the trend is clearly to the right. And the Union is a clear winner. What do the results from Sunday evening mean for federal politics in the coming months?

SPD result also goes to the Chancellor’s account

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD had already achieved its worst result in a nationwide vote in the 2019 European elections, with 15.8 percent. In the first forecasts on Sunday evening, it was even lower – at 14 percent. “For us, this is a very bitter election result,” said General Secretary Kevin Kühnert in an initial reaction.

The Chancellor himself must also take the blame for the result. He took a huge risk during the election campaign, deliberately standing in the front row next to the leading candidate Katarina Barley and having posters put up with him. At major events, he presented himself as a chancellor for peace, a guardian of pensions and the minimum wage, and most recently as a hardliner on the issue of deporting serious criminals. The worst result in history shows that the plan did not work.

Recently, the SPD has borne its election defeats in silence: no criticism of the Chancellor, no grumbling about the party’s course in government. It is questionable whether that will be the case this time. Most recently, former party leader Franz Müntefering surprised everyone with the theory that it had not yet been decided who would run as Chancellor candidate in the next election. Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) has recently been repeatedly mentioned as a possible reserve Chancellor, despite all his denials.

Is there going to be another crash at the traffic lights?

The Green Party leadership collectively swallowed hard when the first forecast of a meager 12.5 percent was shown at their election party in Berlin’s Columbiahalle at 6 p.m. The assembled supporters groaned in agony – and again when the AfD’s significantly better result was announced shortly afterwards. The Greens have failed to achieve their self-imposed goal of beating the AfD.

The Greens have long dreamed of political responsibility at federal level, but their image as a fresh beacon of hope is in tatters with the turnout – the key word is heating law. Compared to the previous European elections with their result of 20.5 percent, the Greens have plummeted. The election campaign under the motto “Do what counts”, the warnings of a shift to the right and the lead candidate Terry Reintke, who is not very well known in Germany, have not electrified people. Despite everything, the Greens are not expected to cause any trouble for the traffic light coalition: even after less than pleasant state elections, the party has always stood firmly by the coalition.

For the FDP, the result is another blow overall, even if the first forecast of 5 percent was loudly applauded in the evening at the party headquarters in Berlin. It is foreseeable that the party leadership in the traffic light coalition will now be more confrontational and enter the political conflict for their own positions. The Liberals blame the traffic light politics for the fact that supporters are turning away. Even the combative defense politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, who was advertised as a “Eurofighter” and was the central face of the Liberals in the election campaign, was unable to turn things around.

As a political “showman,” she had roamed the market squares and taken on critics and loudmouths. Now she was spared a rupture charge, and in the evening it looked as if the 5.4 percent of the last European elections in 2019 would be maintained, but the approval of voters has roughly halved since the last federal election (11.5 percent of the vote).

AfD rejoices: Stronger than the Chancellor’s party

At 6 p.m., cheers broke out in the AfD’s federal headquarters in the north of Berlin, and German flags were waved. According to initial forecasts, this was a clear increase of 5 percentage points compared to the last European elections in 2019 (11 percent). Party leader Tino Chrupalla called the result historic and was particularly pleased that his party came in second, ahead of the Chancellor’s party, the SPD.

However, just a few months ago, the right-wing parties were still hoping to double their 2019 result – at least that’s what the polls suggested at the turn of the year. The numbers had fallen significantly after the large demonstrations following reports of a right-wing meeting in Potsdam, which was about so-called remigration, and after weeks of negative headlines about AfD top candidate Maximilian Krah and the number two on the AfD list, Petr Bystron. Both are concerned with possible connections to Russia, and in Krah’s case also with China.

Union celebrates comeback

The Union had a new unity, a new program, a CDU leader Friedrich Merz who recently strengthened his internal power in his first re-election – and, as expected, won the European elections by a clear margin. The CDU grandees celebrated the defeat for the traffic light government with relish. Especially because the European elections were the first nationwide vote since the 24.1 percent disaster at the federal level in 2021.

But how great is the celebratory mood in the leadership of the Union? The Union is not growing to the sky – it is stuck at 30 percent. The AfD figures will cause stomach aches. CDU/CSU are likely to emphasize their core issue of security even more now, especially ahead of the September elections in the East.

Internally, the 30 percent mark was also seen as a gauge of the level of satisfaction with party leader Merz. However, the significance of the result for the Union’s internal K question is likely to be rather limited – the Sauerlander is currently considered largely unchallenged internally. CSU leader Markus Söder and North Rhine-Westphalia’s Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst, who are considered other aspirants for the candidacy for chancellor, are unlikely to give up their hopes completely. The Union wants to clarify its K question after the elections in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg.

Wagenknecht party passes test

Before the European elections, Sahra Wagenknecht said that “five percent plus” would be a “sensational success” for her party Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht, which was only founded in January. Now, according to initial forecasts, it has actually been five to six percent. “We have made party history here today,” said General Secretary Christian Leye in the evening – never before has a party achieved such a good result so soon after its founding. The BSW was able to score points above all with its criticism of Western military aid for Ukraine and its call for peace negotiations with Russia. Wagenknecht herself attracted thousands to stages across the country – even though she was not a candidate in the European elections.

The result is a good starting point for the BSW for the state elections in Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg in September. The new party is even more popular in eastern Germany than in the west. If the AfD becomes strong in the autumn and cannot find partners, the BSW could even become a government partner in the first year after its founding. This in turn should help the BSW to do well in the 2025 federal election. But the European elections also show that with five to six percent nationwide, Wagenknecht by no means represents the “majority” that is allegedly being ignored by the established parties.

Wagenknecht is really causing problems for her former party, the Left Party. At around three percent, the party fell well short of its weak result of 2019, when it received 5.5 percent. This was a serious setback for party leader Martin Schirdewan, who was also the top candidate for Europe. The East German state elections and the next federal election are likely to be the Left Party’s last chance before it becomes irrelevant.

Source: Stern

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