Conservatives lead European parliament vote in Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives took a clear lead in Sunday's European parliament election over its main competitor Social Democrats (SPD), according to the early projections of local media, Xinua reported.
   Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian allies got 38.4 percent of votes, ARD public television reported. Although it was much lower compared with the 44.5 percent at the last European parliament election in 2004, it still led its main competitor Social Democrats (SPD) quite a lot, which only got 21.1 percent of votes, a historic low for the center-left party.
   "This is disappointing, without question," Franz Mntefering, SPD chairman, quoted as saying in local media. Vice Chancellor of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the SPD's chancellor candidate, also thought the result was "disappointing" but predicted that as the turnout was low, there would be a "different outcome" for his party when Germany goes to the polls in general election in September.
   Although CDU suffered losses compared with last European parliament election, the leading percentage still made them happy. "Tonight we are 17 points ahead of the SPD. The CDU alone is stronger than the SPD and the Greens combined," CDU General Secretary Ronald Pofalla said in Berlin.
   The biggest winner of Sunday's election was the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), one of Merkel's preferred coalition partners after general election. They have got 10.6 percent of the votes, much higher than the 6.1 percent they got in the last election.
   The Greens were the third strongest party with 11.6 percent of the votes, while the hard-line socialist party The Left won 7.5 percent of the votes.
   In total, there were 32 parties in Germany joining in the struggling for votes on Sunday, while the turnout in Germany was still down slightly at 42.5 percent from the last vote in 2004, similar with the previous expectations of local media.
   Germany, the largest owner of the seats in European Parliament, with 99 seats out of a total of 736, have more than 64 million eligible voters in Sunday's election. Among them are 2.1 million people from other EU countries and 4.6 million first-time voters.
   Elections for European Parliament take place in all the EU's 27 member states every five year. This year the Netherlands and Britain were the first to vote on Thursday followed by Ireland, the Czech Republic on Friday. On Sunday, the election started in 18 other EU countries including Germany. About 375 million Europeans across the EU are eligible to vote in the election.

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