Is there anything surprising about this result of a European election in Germany that was not about Europe? After the past few weeks, it is probably the clearness of some of the results that is most surprising. The main role was not played by European plans, but rather by domestic political issues. The reaction of voters to the attempts of the traffic light coalition to find answers to these questions in the past weeks and months is: not like that.

The government and its internal opposition are facing protests. Not everyone expected them to be so clear. In the uninspired election campaign of the past few weeks, platitudes were thrown around, with words that were as big as they were obvious (Freedom! Democracy! Strength! Prosperity!). It was a helpless attempt to respond to fears of a shift to the right.

This fear was by no means unique to Germany; the rise of populist parties, particularly on the extreme right, is a well-known European phenomenon. But other countries have different stories; and they have different parties.

Always up to date: Follow the live ticker for the European elections from the WELT newsroom here

The fact that the AfD recently disintegrated through scandals; that it became clear how many of its representatives were committed to a radical, often anti-constitutional spirit; that even European sister parties sought to distance themselves from it – none of this apparently significantly diminished the party’s appeal.

The fact that Sahra Wagenknecht’s mixed-populist party also managed to attract significant percentages right away shows that there is a flight of voters to the outer fringes, to parties whose positions are difficult to reconcile with a stable democratic mentality.

But it also shows what was already clear, because that is exactly what these parties are counting on: deep uncertainty and frustration about government policies that have grown to desperation – regardless of whether it is about climate, migration or economic issues. The latter and the corresponding protest potential usually create an opportunity for an opposition within a civil framework.

The CDU may declare that it has turned the balance of power in the last federal election in its favour as a success. But this success is too small in view of the successes of the populists. This is because it needs a solid policy programme as much as a united party that appears confident enough to absorb the dramatically bad mood in the country.

And new answers to new questions, or: real turning points in many areas. But it is also because the potential voters of the bourgeois opposition fear that it will once again only be able to govern in a coalition that they do not believe in. Whether it is a grand coalition or a green coalition.