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July 24, 2017

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Merkel conservatives win EU vote, far-right glad as neo-Nazis gain seat

BERLIN--German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives came out ahead in European Parliament elections, official results showed Monday, but a neo-Nazi party also won a seat in Brussels, echoing far-right gains elsewhere.

Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party the CSU — a team that last September celebrated a landslide win at the national level — between them secured 35.3 percent of votes cast.

The neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), won 300,000 votes, 1.0 percent of the total, and so wins its first seat in the 751-member European parliament.

The far-right party profited from a reform of Germany's electoral system, which removed a three percent threshold to gain seats.

The CDU-CSU result — though less triumphant than last year's 41.5 percent German election win, mainly because of CSU losses — was seen as another endorsement for Merkel, the only leader of a major EU member country to have weathered the fallout from the eurozone crisis.

The vote was also celebrated by Merkel's new partners in a left-right 'grand coalition' government, the Social Democrats (SPD), who won 27.3 percent of the vote, up from 20.8 percent at the last such EU vote in 2009 and translating into 27 seats.

Turnout in Germany was 48.1 percent, 1.9 points higher than in 2009.

'Voter dissatisfaction'

Germany, the EU's most populous country, sends 96 members to the European legislature, which has demanded a bigger say in who takes over from outgoing European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

At the European level, where Berlin's influence has been strong, "the results reflect a voter dissatisfaction with the current policy, especially when you look at the results in France, Britain and Greece," said Julian Rappold of the German Council on Foreign Relations.

He added however that "Merkel can be satisfied with the German result", even while "she will have mixed feelings tonight" given the rise of populist protest parties in Europe.

Political scientist Jens Walther of Duesseldorf University agreed that, in economically strong Germany, the result pointed at voters' "extreme satisfaction with the federal government" and said "compared to other countries, she (Merkel) had a very good result."

The CDU's top candidate David McAllister said: "We had a goal and we achieved that goal, we are the strongest force in this election, we clearly won. And Germany clearly voted in a pro-European way. This confirms our good policy for Europe."

Strong gain for centre-left SPD

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