June 14th, 2024

German exit polls point to far-right gains in European election and a weak government showing

By The Associated Press on June 9, 2024.

A woman in a European hoodie throws her ballot paper into the ballot box for the European elections at a polling station in Frankfurt, Germany Sunday, June 9, 2024. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) – Exit polls pointed to very weak results for Germany’s governing parties and gains for the far-right Alternative for Germany in Sunday’s vote for the European Parliament, while the mainstream conservative opposition was set to remain the country’s strongest political force in the legislature.

The polls for ARD and ZDF public television showed support for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats at 14%, below the 15.8% they managed in 2019 and far below their showing in Germany’s last national election in 2021.

Alternative for Germany, or AfD, was seen winning up to 16.5% of the vote. That’s better than its showing of 11% in 2019 but still some way short of its poll ratings at the beginning of the year. The party has seen a string of setbacks since then, including scandals surrounding its two lead candidates for the European Parliament.

The polls showed the environmentalist Greens, the second-biggest party in Scholz’s coalition, falling from a very successful 20.5% five years ago to around 12%. Support for the pro-business Free Democrats, the third party in the quarrelsome and unpopular government, was seen at 5%.

The exit polls gave a clear lead to the center-right Union bloc, now the main opposition force, putting its support at around 30%. That’s in line with its 2019 result and better than its showing in the last national election. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is a member of the Christian Democratic Union, the dominant party in the two-party bloc.

Kevin Kühnert, the Social Democrats’ general secretary, said that “this is a hard defeat for us today.” He vowed that “we will come back, we will fight our way out of this.”

The exit polls showed a new political party founded by prominent opposition politician Sahra Wagenknecht, which combines left-wing economic policy with a restrictive approach to migration and opposition to weapons supplies to Ukraine, taking up to 6% of the vote.

Germany has 96 of the 720 seats in the new European Parliament, the biggest single share.

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