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Germany's Scholz under fire after EU election rout by the far right

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's centre-left coalition is feeling the mounting pressure following its significant loss in the European Parliament elections, with the three parties collectively obtaining a mere 30% of the vote.

Published June 10,2024
The pressure is piling up on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's centre-left coalition after its bruising defeat in the European Parliament elections, as the three parties together secured less than a third of the vote.

The main opposition conservatives, the CDU/CSU alliance, came out on top, while the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) placed second - despite the anti-Islam and anti-immigrant party being embroiled in a series of scandals, official figures showed on Monday.

Scholz's Social Democrats (SPD) saw their worst result ever in a nationwide election, a humiliation that was raising questions about the future of his government.

The leader of Germany's conservative CSU party in the state of Bavaria, Markus Söder, called for early national parliamentary elections as soon as possible.

"This government is basically finished. And it must now be like France: There have been demands for new elections, there are new elections by Macron," Söder, who is also Bavaria's state premier, told the broadcaster n-tv on Monday morning.

"Our country needs a fresh start," he said. "That's why there should be new elections as soon as possible."

French President Emmanuel Macron announced the dissolution of the National Assembly following the resounding defeat of his party on Sunday evening by the far right.

On Sunday, CDU Secretary General Carsten Linnemann said Scholz should call a vote of confidence in the Bundestag.

The opposition lawmaker also blamed the coalition for the strong results of the AfD. "[Scholz's] coalition has played a decisive and significant role in the AfD becoming so strong," Linnemann told broadcaster ZDF on Monday.

The SPD said it wants do more to promote the interests of the working class following its defeat.

"Things have to change," SPD party chairman Lars Klingbeil told broadcaster NDR Info on Monday.

"The SPD is going into a mode in which we fight for these people. Of course, this starts now with the budget deliberations and must continue for the rest of the legislative period."

Klingbeil rejected Linnemann's call for a vote of confidence in parliament.

The Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) garnered 30% of the vote, translating to 29 seats. That is the same seat tally as in the current outgoing European Parliament.

The AfD made significant gains, receiving 15.9% of the vote, up from 11% in the 2019 European elections, giving them 15 seats.

That put the far-right party ahead of Scholz's SPD, which posted 13.9% (14 seats) in what was the worst showing in a democratic nationwide election in more than a century for the centre-left party, which has historically been one of the dominant forces in German politics.

The Greens slipped to 11.9% (12 seats), significantly down on their 2019 result of 20.5%, while junior coalition partner FDP, which is known for their business-friendly stance, received 5.2% (five seats).

The newly founded populist party Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance (BSW) hit 6.2% for six seats, while the far-left The Left party tumbled to just 2.7%, or three seats.

In the AfD strongholds of eastern Germany, the party led the field.

A record-high 64.8% of those eligible to vote in Germany did so, the highest turnout in a EU vote since reunification, Federal Returning Officer Ruth Brand said as provisional official results for the country were announced.

The far-right AfD secured big victories in eastern states that held local elections on Sunday, parallel to the EU election.

In the state of Brandenburg, which surrounds the national capital Berlin, the AfD garnered the largest vote share at 25.7%. That is an increase of 9.8 percentage points compared to the election five years ago. The conservative CDU and SPD followed in second and third place.

In the local polls in neighbouring Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the AfD ousted the CDU from the top spot. The AfD got 25.6% of the vote, which means it almost doubled its share compared to the last local elections. The CDU came in second place at 24%.

The AfD was also projected to have made significant gains in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, which like Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern were part of the former East Germany.

US tech billionaire Elon Musk, whose only European Tesla factory is located in Brandenburg, spoke in praise of the AfD.

The party has been labelled as right-wing extremist, "but the policies of AfD that I've read about don't sound extremist," Musk wrote on his online platform X on Sunday.

Musk is politically firmly aligned with the American right. He has repeatedly complained about alleged racism against whites in the US and claimed that US President Joe Biden's Democratic Party supports illegal immigration in order to win elections - ignoring the fact that migrants must first obtain US citizenship in order to be able to vote.

Musk already got involved in European politics last autumn. He circulated a post expressing hope that the AfD would win the European elections.