German Conservatives Top EU Election as Far-Right Gains Force French Leaders to Reshuffle

June 10, 2024 by No Comments

Germany’s conservative parties, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU), emerged as the victors in the European Union elections, securing 30.2% of the vote, according to projections by German public television. This victory comes amidst a growing far-right presence within the bloc, prompting France’s leadership to take swift action.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, projected to garner 16% of the vote, secured second place, marking a significant five percentage point increase from the 2019 European Parliament election.

Meanwhile, the lackluster performance of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government – consisting of the Social Democrats, the Green Party, and the Free Democratic Party – has cast a shadow over his authority and fueled internal conflicts. The coalition secured less than a third of the vote, with the Social Democrats achieving only 13.9%, their worst post-World War II showing in a nationwide vote. The Green Party also suffered a significant decline, falling from a peak of 20.5% five years ago to 11.9%. All three parties performed notably lower than their 2021 national election results.

“People have anxieties. They have anxieties about their future; they have anxieties about not earning enough, about not making enough, about having too many immigrants in their cities,” Andrea Römmele, a political science professor at the Hertie School in Berlin, explained to the Associated Press. “And that’s something that the AfD appeals to.”

Opposition leader Friedrich Merz celebrated his Union bloc’s victory, describing the outcome as “a serious defeat for the chancellor, who was on posters across the country.” Other conservative figures suggested that Scholz should either call a parliamentary confidence vote or initiate new elections, proposals that were quickly dismissed by the governing parties.

“He went all-in in this campaign … so it is also his loss,” Römmele remarked. However, despite recent speculation about the possibility of the Social Democrats replacing Scholz with the more popular Defense Minister Boris Pistorius as their candidate for the next election, “Olaf Scholz would need to step aside, and I simply do not see that, be there pressure or not,” she added.

The strong performance of Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party in the European Parliament election in France prompted French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron to call for snap legislative elections. Initial projections from France indicate that the National Rally party is leading with a substantial advantage, delivering a significant setback to Macron’s pro-European centrists.

Le Pen’s nationalist party is estimated to have secured around 31%-32% of the votes, a historic result representing more than double the share received by Macron’s Renaissance party, which is projected to garner around 15%. Macron, who was not a candidate in the EU elections, still has three years remaining in his presidential term.

In response to the EU election results, Macron made a surprise announcement dissolving the lower house of France’s parliament, forcing voters to return to the polls in the coming weeks to elect new lawmakers. The legislative elections will be held in two rounds on June 30 and July 7.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right party emerged victorious in the European elections with a strong 28% of the votes, further solidifying her leadership at home. Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party solidified its status as the country’s most popular party, exceeding its performance in the 2022 general elections, where it won 26% of the vote. These projections are based on almost 70% of the votes counted, according to state broadcaster RAI.