Green wave hits Germany with doubling of support

Shock result for Germany’s ruling parties, with worst-ever election for Merkel’s CDU

Europe’s Green wave reached Germany on Sunday evening when European exit polls showed a doubling of support for the Green Party to 22 per cent, and a 10 point jump in voter turnout.

That result triggered shockwaves in Germany’s ruling parties, with the worst-ever nationwide election results for Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and it junior coalition partners in the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Exit polls suggest the CDU and its CSU Bavarian allies slipped to around 28 per cent, down seven points on the last European elections, while the SPD vote collapsed almost 12 points to around 15 per cent.

“For the first time the climate question affected an election and had a negative effect on the major parties and their hesitation,” said Robert Habeck, Green Party co-leader.


In Brussels, Green Party lead candidate Ska Keller said her party was open to parliamentary alliances only with politicians who realised how times had changed.

“We will talk about political content, it’s clear what we want,” she said. “People have great expectations of us on climate politics and social questions.”

Systems in flux

At the Greens’ election party in Berlin, a jubilant crowd sang the EU anthem as someone danced in a polar bear costume, secretary general Michael Kellner said the German result “shows how much the German party systems is in flux”.

Electoral analysis showed the two main parties dropped about 20 percentage points, with the Greens peeling off around 1.4 million votes each of them.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, in her first election outing as CDU leader, played down the result numbers and insisted that, by finishing first, her party would push German interests in Brussels.

“This result makes clear that Manfred Weber should take over the head of the European Commission,” she said, in reference to the preferred candidate – or spitzenkandidat – of the European People’s Party, to which the CDU is affiliated.

Mr Weber, at her side, insisted the increased turnout of an estimated 59 per cent showed “European democracy lives”. Meanwhile CDU secretary general Paul Ziemiak admitted that “this is not a result we can be happy with”.

A funereal mood twice-over dominated at the SPD election party. Its EU election slide, to third place behind the Greens, was mirrored by the possible loss of power in Bremen, Germany’s smallest federal state, where it has ruled for seven decades.

Senior officials agreed the result couldn’t be sugar-coated and, in the words of one, “won’t be without consequences”.

SPD leader Andrea Nahles, likely now to face renewed putsch pressure, promised to react to the Green wave in the Berlin grand coalition. “We want a climate protection law for our entire economy,” she said.

Two other parties scored modest gains: the liberal Free Democrats up two points to 5.5 per cent and the populist, far-right Alternative für Deutschland up 3.3 per cent to 10.4 per cent. That was a slide in support from the 2017 general election, with party officials admitting it was hurt by blowback from UK Brexit chaos and their scandal-wracked Austrian sister, the Freedom Party.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin