Germany's far-right party comes second in EU elections

Right-wing Alternative for Germany wins record votes in election European Parliament elections German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's three-party coalition government came under heavy criticism on Sunday, a sign of a political shift to the right across the continent.

The party, called the AfD, received 16% of the vote, second only to Germany's conservative Christian Democrats, which received 30%. The AfD's performance was nearly 5 percentage points higher than in 2019. The AfD won more votes than any of Germany's three coalition parties in the election. It was the strongest showing for the AfD in a national election, while support for Schulz's coalition in Germany has fallen to a record low, according to opinion polls.

On Monday, Alice Weidel, one of the two leaders of the AfD, asked Schulz to call new parliamentary elections, as French President Emmanuel Macron did after his party's dismal results. Schulz's spokesman ruled out early elections.

Ms. Weidel told a news conference in Berlin that her party had achieved “a major success” and said the government was working against Germany rather than helping it. “People are tired of this,” she said.

The election results could have far-reaching consequences. Europe has a number of environmental initiatives planned, called Green Deal Schulz's opponents have already begun questioning the legitimacy of his government, arguing that if the EU election results are confirmed, they could show that only a third of Germans support his three-way governing partnership.

The once fringe group is under surveillance by Germany's domestic intelligence agency for suspected “extremism.” Three-quarters of Germans say they believe the party poses a threat to democracy. But outrage over the recent killing of a German police officer Just days before the EU elections, protests in Mannheim, Germany, and an arrest in connection with the stabbing of an Afghan migrant may have reignited the fears that the AfD party often exploits.

Although the AfD’s two leading candidates for EU posts lost, its results were also stronger than in the past. Ban on campaigning Millions of people have taken to the streets this year to protest the party's anti-immigration stance, following a series of public scandals, including a meeting of AfD members to discuss mass deportations of migrants.

“It’s remarkable that the party has been able to rise from the ashes,” said Sudha David-Wilp, regional director of the German Marshall Fund’s Berlin office. But Ms. David-Wilp said dissatisfaction with the government, a strong base in eastern Germany — the AfD is leading in five eastern states in the EU vote — and recent attacks on police officers were likely driving the party’s growth.

“They are not going to disappear from German politics any time soon,” she added.

Although the figure was lower than the peak of poll forecasts a few months ago, when it was thought the party could get close to 25% of the vote, AfD members celebrated the result on Sunday evening.

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Weidel attributed the election result to public disgust with the status quo. “People have had enough of the bureaucracy in Brussels,” she told a German public broadcaster after the first projected results were released on Sunday evening.

Schulz appeared at the SPD headquarters in Berlin on Sunday evening after the election results were announced. But when asked by reporters if he wanted to comment, he replied, “No,” according to German weekly Der Spiegel.

The fortunes of the AfD appear to be rising in lockstep with the decline of the Greens, an environmentalist party that was once a stronghold in Germany. Preliminary results show the Greens’ share of the vote has nearly halved to around 12% from more than 20% in the 2019 election.

“Despite the AfD’s progress, it’s clear that few young people are switching from us Greens to the AfD. Instead, many are voting for smaller parties that often have platforms similar to the Greens and are more focused on personal issues,” Emilia Fester, a Greens lawmaker and one of the party’s youngest elected officials, said in an email. “This gives me hope.”

The election, in which 16- and 17-year-olds were allowed to vote for the first time, showed the AfD swept voters under 30, increasing its support among that group by 10 percentage points. The Greens, which have been heavily supported by activist Greta Thunberg and student protesters against climate change, fell 18 percentage points among that group.

“In the past, young voters tended to be more left-wing and progressive,” Florian Stoeckel, a professor of political science at the University of Exeter in the U.K., said in an email. “This time, however, they are moving to the right.”

He added that the AfD's recent move to heavily market itself on TikTok may have played a role.

Mr Stocker said: “This is consistent with recent survey results showing that young people across Europe, especially young men, are leaning more towards the right.”

Ultimately, the election result may be more of a symbolic victory for the AfD than a victory that changes the dynamics of the European Parliament. Expelled from Identity and the Democratic PartyIt comes after the AfD's lead EU candidate, Maximilian Krah, in May spoke equivocally about the extent of the evil of the Nazi SS.

On Monday, AfD members voted to remove Mr Krach from the EU delegation. Ultimately, the party will send 14 delegates to Brussels, up from nine. Their powers will be limited because they are as unfettered as any other far-right group in parliament.

Tatiana Firsova contributed to this article.

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