Germany’s far-right makes strong gains in EU vote despite scandals

By Thomson Reuters Jun 9, 2024 | 11:35 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) – The far-right Alternative for Germany shrugged off a string of scandals to make solid gains and take second place in Sunday’s EU election, according to first exit polls, a result that, if conmfirmed, would underscore the party’s resilience ahead of next year’s federal election.

The forecast comes as Germany’s party landscape undergoes its biggest upheaval in decades, with new populist parties vying to take space vacated by the shrinking mainstream parties that have dominated since reunification in 1990.

The AfD won a record 16.5% of the vote on Sunday, according to an exit poll published by state broadcaster ARD – less than the 22% it was polling in February, but still 5.5 percentage points more than in the last EU election in 2019 and more than all three parties in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition.

The results were in line with an expected broader shift rightwards for the European Parliament across the bloc of 450 million citizens.

The AfD has tapped into frustrations with Scholz’s coalition, support for which has plunged since it took office in late 2021 as it contends with multiple challenges from the Ukraine war and state services burdened by rising migration to a cost of living crisis.

Germany’s Greens were the biggest loser on Sunday, down 8.5 percentage points to 12%, according to the exit poll, punished by voters for the cost of policies to reduce CO2 emissions – in line with expectations for environmental parties across Europe.

Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) and the third coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) also fared poorly, expected to win 14% and 5% of the vote respectively, down from 15.8% and 5.4% in the last election.

The conservatives, who are in opposition at federal level, were forecast to come first, rising slightly to 29.5%.

But analysts say next year’s election next year is still wide open, not least because Friedrich Merz, their likely chancellor candidate, is gaffe-prone and could alienate more centrist voters.

The BSW, founded in January and the only major party in Germany to condemn western weapons deliveries to Ukraine and Israel won 5.5%, according to the ARD poll.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Thomas Escritt)