What the EU election results say about the state of politics in Germany

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
What the EU election results say about the state of politics in Germany
Employees dismantle an election poster in Halle for the SPD with a photo of Chancellor Scholz and the leading candidate Katarina Barley after the European elections. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jan Woitas

What does the future hold for German politics after the defeat of coalition parties in the EU election vote? We look at what we can expect in the coming weeks.


It was a bitter night for the 'Ampel' or 'traffic light' coalition parties that make up the German government. 

After millions of EU citizens in Germany cast their vote in the European parliamentary elections, it became clear that Chancellor Olaf Scholz, of the Social Democrats (SPD), faces a fresh headache. 

According to provisional official results announced by the Federal Returning Officer early on Monday morning, the conservative bloc made up of the Christian Democrats and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) took the largest share of the vote with 30 percent - a slight increase from the last European elections in 2019 when the parties snagged 28.9 percent.

READ ALSO: Conservatives lead as Scholz's coalition suffers defeat at EU polls in Germany

Meanwhile, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) achieved its best result to date in a nationwide vote with 15.9 percent (compared to 11 percent in 2019). Although this is lower than many interim poll results, the party is by far the strongest force in eastern Germany where state elections are being held later this year in the three states of Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg.

The SPD, which relied on Chancellor Olaf Scholz as a driving force in the election campaign, fell to 13.9 percent (from 15.8 percent in 2019) - its worst result ever in a nationwide vote. Coalition partners, the Greens, dropped to 11.9 percent (from 20.5 percent five years ago). And the Free Democrats (FDP) saw their share of the EU election vote in Germany fall slightly to 5.2 percent from 5.4 percent in 2019. 

This graphic on X by Europe elects shows how many seats each party (and the bloc it is part of in the European parliament) is expected to get under the preliminary final results, compared to 2019. There are a total of 720 seats in the European parliament.

The Left Party (Die Linke) landed at a meagre 2.7 percent (down from 5.5 percent in 2019) - its worst result in European elections. The BSW party, headed up by former Die Linke politician Sahra Wagenknecht, achieved 6.2 percent. The Free Voters achieved 2.7 percent (compared to 2.2 percent five years ago), while the Volt party scored 2.6 percent (up from 0.7 percent in 2019).


In contrast to federal and state elections, the European elections in Germany do not have a threshold clause, i.e. a five per cent hurdle needed for parties to get into parliament.

At 64.8 percent, voter turnout reached a new high since reunification, putting Germany in fifth place among the 27 EU member states. For the first time, 16 and 17-year-olds were allowed to vote in a European election in Germany.

Will this break the current coalition government led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz?

French President Emmanuel Macron made short work of the election evening. Just one hour after announcing the resounding defeat of his centrist bloc against the far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen, he declared that a snap parliamentary election would be held in three weeks.

"I decided to give you the choice... Therefore I will dissolve the National Assembly tonight," Macron said in a live TV address on Sunday night

READ ALSO: What happens now with France's snap election?

Would Chancellor Scholz, who achieved the worst result ever in a national vote with the SPD, consider doing the same thing?

It could happen. CDU general secretary Carsten Linnemann said Scholz should call for a "vote of confidence" following the dismal result.

And there is a historical precedent for this: in 2005, following an election defeat in North Rhine-Westphalia, the then SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder lost a no confidence vote, enabling him to hold an early Bundestag election.

As things stand, the next federal election in Germany doesn't take place until autumn 2025. 

READ ALSO: What we learned from European elections across Europe


However, Scholz is not the type to throw in the towel easily. On election night, he strolled calmly through the SPD's election party at Berlin's Willy Brandt House, taking selfies with party members as if nothing had happened - a far cry from the reaction of Macron in France. 

But the next few weeks will be uncomfortable for him, and there will be lots of discussions about how things should continue. SPD leader Lars Klingbeil is already hinting that his party will now take a tougher stance in the coalition, perhaps even at the chancellor's expense.

"Our people want to see us fight," said Klingbeil on election night.

However, the election failures of the Greens and the FDP will not help the willingness to compromise in the coalition The latest turmoil comes in the middle of difficult budget negotiations that are already causing splinters in the government.

The Greens will also be doing some soul-searching - the big story from 2019 was the Green surge, but their support has dropped dramatically. 

Terry Reintke, the Greens' top candidate for the 2024 European elections, on stage at the Greens' election party in Berlin.

Terry Reintke, the Greens' top candidate for the 2024 European elections, on stage at the Greens' election party in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder


Could Germany see a far-right premier in eastern state elections?

The SPD will also be thinking hard about the AfD's strong performance.  

The SPD's election campaign focussed heavily on the fight against the far-right. But the party has evidently lost many working class voters, with many drifting to the AfD.

Here, the SPD only gained a below-average 12 percent, while the AfD scored 34 percent of votes from this group.

With state elections coming up in the eastern German states of Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg in September, what does the European vote signal?

If the AfD achieves the same results as in the EU elections, it could come close to the goal of having its first state leader. 

DPA reported on the example of Saxony. If the results were to be similar to those of the EU elections, it could theoretically happen that only the AfD, CDU and the Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance (BSW) enter the state parliament and all others fail to reach the five percent hurdle.

If the CDU and BSW were to win even fewer seats than the AfD, which also does not seem out of the question when looking at the European election results, they would not be able to prevent the election of an AfD state premier.


However, a few things should be noted. One is that this was a European election and it may be that voters behave slightly differently in a state vote. Another point is that AfD support has gone down in recent months after several scandals so it remains to be seen how the situation will develop - and if more scandals will come to light. 

Experts have said in the past that is unlikely that the AfD would ever enter a federal government, but that it is unclear about what could happen at a state level where the far-right have a lot of support. 

READ ALSO: How worried should Germany be about the far-right AfD after deportation scandal?

With reporting by DPA


Comments (1)

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Peter Denner 2024/06/12 16:24
You've taken the results by constituency not from the source but from the X page of a far-right propagandist. Worse, you've included his misleading tweet "It highlights the fact that Germany is overwhelmingly a conservative country." No it doesn't. It highlights the fact that: 1. voting preferences are very different between the former East and West Germany; 2. within each of the former East and West Germany, voting preferences are very uniform; 3. centre-left votes are split between 2 parties.

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