Merkel conservatives on course for victory in European elections: Exit polls

AFP , Sunday 25 May 2014

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives were on course for major victory in European Parliament elections on Sunday, despite gains for the centre-left Social Democrats and the rise of a new anti-euro party, exit polls showed.

Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party the CSU -- who won a landslide victory at the national level last September -- between them scored 36 percent, down from 37.9 percent in the 2009 European parliament vote, the polls showed.

Their new governing partners in a 'grand coalition', the Social Democrats (SPD), scored 27.5 percent, a strong gain from the last EU vote in 2009 when they won 20.8 percent, public broadcasters ARD and ZDF estimated.

Since teaming up with Merkel, the party has pushed social reforms including a national minimum wage in Germany. It also boasted among its ranks the European candidate for European Commission president, Martin Schulz.

The election saw a new anti-euro party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), make its entry into the European Parliament with 6.5 percent of the vote, exit polls said.

The AfD celebrated the result as a popular endorsement of its demands, including Germany's return to the Deutschmark and the orderly dissolution of the euro common currency system.

"The AfD in this election blossomed into a new people's party in Germany, as a liberal party, as a social party, and as a value-oriented party," said party leader Bernd Lucke, an economics professor.

Germany, the most populous country in the EU, sends 96 legislators to the European Parliament.

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