Germany’s Green party doubled its share of the vote in Sunday’s European Parliament election, leaping into second place behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and above the centre-left Social Democrats.
An exit poll in the European Union’s biggest member state showed the Greens on 22%, Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their conservative allies on 28%, down eight percentage points from 2014, and the SPD slumping nearly 12 points to 15.5%.
The poll for public broadcaster ARD bore out predictions of a “green wave” that could push climate and environmental issues up the agenda in Brussels and bring the Greens into a possible four-party, pro-EU coalition at European level.
On a night when German political attention was focused on the CDU’s narrow defeat of Merkel’s national coalition partner the SPD in the small city-state of Bremen, a left-wing bastion, the insurgent far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) raised its share of the EU vote by 3.4% to 10.5%.
Pollsters have been predicting a surge for nationalists across the continent that will pressure traditional parties which back continued integration of the Union.
Germany has been less exposed to the trend than others, and a clearer indication of how the far-right has done will come when French exit polls are published after voting ends there at 1800 GMT.
After 2100 GMT, when the final ballot is cast in Italy, results and projections from Italy, and from Britain, which voted on Thursday, will complete the picture in the EU’s big four countries. Anti-EU parties have been forecast to top the polls in both Italy and Britain, and could also do in France.
Initial indications showed turnout was up in most countries, giving hope to EU officials who see an end to a 40-year run of declining participation as a mark of Europeans waking up to the importance of the EU legislature.
A first European Parliament estimate of how its 751 seats are likely to be allocated will come shortly after 1800 GMT, when polls in 12 of the 28 states, including France and Spain, will have closed.