European elections 2019: CDU and SPD lose, Green Party exceeds 20% mark

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The Greens are the big winners of the European elections in Germany and march past the Social Democrats to become the second strongest party in Germany. The Christian Democrats also endure major losses, but remain the strongest force. The small parties can make significant gains.

A serious setback for the parties of the Grand Coalition: the Union and the SPD reach a historic low in the European elections. Nevertheless, CDU and CSU together remain the strongest force. According to the preliminary results, the CDU/CSU achieved 28.9 percent – 6.5 points less than in the European elections five years ago (35.4 percent), and is also performing significantly worse than in the 2017 Bundestag elections (32.9 percent). The CDU contributed 22.6 percent to the Union parties’ results, the CSU 6.3 percent.

CDU loses clearly

The bitter losses can primarily be attributed to the CDU’s result and less so its Bavarian sister party CSU. One reason could be that the CSU’s Manfred Weber was the national and European “top candidate” of the Christian-conservative party family EVP and thus a candidate for the top job in Brussels: Weber wants to become Commission President.

CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said that the Union had achieved its election goal of becoming the strongest power. And the EPP will probably become the strongest force in the European Parliament. This underpins the claim that EPP top candidate Weber will become the new president of the EU Commission. CDU vice-president Ursula von der Leyen made similar remarks on public television. Weber is “in the pole position”.

SPD crashes…again

For the SPD, the European elections will end in a fiasco – and even worse than feared. The party around top candidate Katarina Barley is grappling with double-digit losses. According to the projections, the SPD has only reached 15.8 percent, compared to 27.3 percent five years ago. This puts the SPD back in third place – far behind the Greens. It is also a defeat for party leader Andrea Nahles, who pushed Barley to run for office.

Nahles called the result “extremely disappointing”. SPD vice-president Olaf Scholz expressed similar sentiments. On ARD television, he also spoke out clearly against personnel debates: “The call for personnel consequences does not lead any further,” Scholz said. In the past few days, party leader Nahles had come under massive pressure.

Barley herself explained: “I gave everything I could. More was not possible.” One reason for her party’s poor performance was her failure to address the issue of climate protection.

The Greens cheer

For the Greens, on the other hand, the high continues. They have every reason to cheer, climbing to second place for the first time in a nationwide election. Above all, they were able to score with the topic of climate protection: The Greens win more than one million voters each from the SPD and the CDU/CSU: 1.29 million from the SPD and 1.11 million from the CDU/CSU according to an Infratest-dimap analysis. Among young voters and in major cities such as Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, they became the strongest force.

Overall, they have doubled their results: from 10.7 percent in 2014 to 20.5 percent today. Top candidate Ska Keller spoke of a “sensational result” and a “magnificent team performance”. “For us it is a task and a responsibility to do things, especially in climate protection,” she added on ARD.

At 5.5 percent, the Left Party fell short of its expectations and also short of its 2014 result (7.4 percent). Party leader Bernd Riexinger reacted accordingly disappointed. European elections have never been an easy field for his party, Riexinger said on ZDF television. Nevertheless, his party had “expected and deserved a better result”. Top candidate Martin Schirdewan expressed a similar opinion.

AfD and FDP grow slightly

The Alternative for Germany manages to improve its score, but less than predicted in surveys. The only party represented in the Bundestag with a truly EU-critical election campaign gathered 11 percent of votes (compared to 7.1 percent five years ago). “We are going to Brussels to repair the EU and reduce it to its core tasks,” said top candidate Jörg Meuthen. The AfD now has a “group with a great deal of strength” in Brussels. Partners will also be sought in the EPP, such as the Fidesz Party of Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The FDP also manages to improve on its 2014 result with a result of 5.4 percent – after 3.4 percent in 2014. Party leader Christian Lindner sees it positively: “We are not a big election winner tonight, but we are a small election winner.”

Inflow for small parties

Election winners are also the small parties, i.e. the “others”: together they account for 12.9 percent – just under 5 percent more than five years ago. Since there is currently no barring clause in the European elections in Germany, they had a good chance of winning seats and sending MPs to Brussels and Strasbourg respectively. This obviously made them attractive to many voters: seven parties were able to win seats: The Free Voters and The Party each won two seats. The Pirate Party, the Animal Welfare Party, Volt, the ÖDP and the Family Party each won one seat.

Record turnout

Interest in the European elections this time was higher than it had been for a long time. The turnout in Germany was 61.4 percent – a record since the reunification of Germany. It was 60 percent in the first all-German election in 1994, after which it declined steadily.

Also in contrast to previous European elections, this election was not a proxy vote for the federal government, but an election for Europe, according to a pre-election survey by Infratest dimap. Brexit, the government crisis in Austria, right-wing populist governments such as Italy or Hungary – all this apparently mobilized many people in Germany to take sides for the European project.

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