on Sunday 9 June, 2024

EU elections: far-right gains in Germany, Austria and Netherlands, exit polls show

The AfD deputy chair Alice Weidel (L) and co-chair Tino Chrupalla (R) celebrate at a party event in Berlin on Sunday. Photograph: Filip Singer/EPA
by : The Guardian

Far-right parties in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have made gains in the European parliament elections, exit polls show, as data trickles in before official results later on Sunday.

Although the centre-right alliance has taken a decisive lead in Germany, the far-right Alternative für Deutschland has made significant gains, while the governing Greens and Social Democrats have slumped, according to the exit polls.

In Austria, the far-right Freedom party topped an exit poll, and in the Netherlands Geert Wilders’ far-right party was running a close second behind a Left-Green alliance.

On Sunday, the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, who leads a stridently nationalist and anti-immigrant government, told reporters after casting his ballot: “Right is good. To go right is always good. Go right!”

In Germany, exit polls showed the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union, currently in opposition, with 29.5% of the vote, while the AfD had jumped to 16.5% from 11% in 2019. The AfD’s success comes despite a series of scandals, including its lead candidate saying that the SS, the Nazi’s main paramilitary force, were “not all criminals”.

The parties of Olaf Scholz’s ruling coalition have done badly, with the Social Democrats sliding to 14%, worse than its weakest ever result in 2019, according to the exit poll. The Greens, who came second in 2019 with 20.5%, have been knocked down to fourth place with 12 %-12.5%.

Tens of thousands of Germans took to the streets in cities including Berlin, Dresden and Munich to protest against rightwing extremism on Sunday, the final day of European elections in 21 countries.

In Austria, the Freedom party topped the poll with a projected 27%, ahead of the conservative People’s party and the Social Democrats, on 23.5% and 23% respectively.

Wilders’ Freedom party looked set to gain seats in the Netherlands, with 17.7% of the vote, but it came second to the Left-Green alliance led by the former EU Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, which has 21.6%.

In Greece, the governing New Democracy party was comfortably in the lead with 30% of the votes, while the radical left Syriza party, which led the country during negotiations on the third EU bailout, was on 16.7%, pushing the Socialists (Pasok) into third place with 12.4%.

The data is based on exit polls, which are not yet available in most countries. The first provisional results are expected at 11.15pm CET (2215 BST).

Pro-European mainstream parties on the left, right and centre are expecting to see their majorities narrow, with gains expected for nationalist and far-right parties. That could endanger the passing of ambitious laws on climate action. It is also likely to complicate the German conservative Ursula von der Leyen’s hopes of winning a second term as European Commission president, as she needs to win the support of at least 361 of the new members of parliament.

Voters in most EU countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland, were called to the polls on Sunday, the culmination of a four-day electoral exercise that began last Thursday in the Netherlands.

In the first election since Britain left the EU, an estimated 361 million Europeans had the chance to vote. That included 16-year olds in Belgium and Germany for the first time, who joined counterparts in Austria and Malta and 17-year-olds in Greece.

In some countries there were signs of a higher turnout than last time. Voter turnout in France was 42.6% at 5pm, an increase of more than two percentage points on the same time in 2019. In Hungary, 33.1% of voters had cast their ballots by 1pm, compared with 24% in 2019.

In 2019, against a backdrop of Britain’s chaotic EU exit negotiations and tensions with Donald Trump’s White House, turnout rose to 50.6%, the highest in 25 years.

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, urged voters to go to the polls after casting his vote. “It’s worth remembering that the response to the [2008] financial crisis, the social response to the pandemic, the responses to the different economic crises triggered by the war in Ukraine and the war in the Middle East all came from the same capital – which is Brussels,” the Socialist leader told reporters. “Do we want a Europe that continues to come together in solidarity to face the challenges ahead, or do we choose a reactionary Europe of cuts and of regression and reaction?”