Centrist parties hold ground in EU elections, but far right makes inroads

Results for the European Parliament elections showed the centre-right European People's Party to be the big winner, even as far-right parties in France and Germany made a solid showing.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen poses during an event at the European People's Party headquarters in Brussels, Sunday, 9 June 2024.

By Julia Kaiser

Julia is a reporter at The Parliament Magazine

09 Jun 2024

Centrist parties maintained their hold on power in the European Parliament when election results rolled in Sunday night, even as the far right made solid gains that were widely predicted.  

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) group won a majority with 189 seats of the 720 at stake, gaining 13 compared to the end of the last term, projections from the EP showed. The centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group gained 135 seats, losing four.  

“In other words, the centre is holding,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the EPP’s lead candidate, said Sunday night in a speech at the European Parliament.  

On the far right, the Identity and Democracy (ID) group – the political home of France’s National Rally (RN) and Italy’s Lega party – gained nine seats, bringing its total to 58, projections showed. That success came despite the parliamentary group’s move late last month to expel one of its biggest national parties, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), amid a raft of scandals.   

Preliminary projections for European Parliament elections.

The other far-right parliamentary group, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) – political home of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy – gained four seats relative to the end of the last term, rising to 73.  

The ID group’s victory appeared to be bolstered by robust support for RN in France and lead candidate Jordan Bardella, garnering about 31.4 per cent of the vote – roughly double that of French President Emmanuel Macron’s political coalition. The resounding defeat led Macron to dissolve France’s National Assembly Sunday night, calling for a snap legislative election at the end of the month. 

“I’ve decided to give you back the choice,” Macron said. The coalition Besoin d’Europe, which includes Macron’s Renaissance party, carried just 14.6 per cent of the French vote, according to projections.  

“This unprecedented rout for those in power marks the end of a cycle, and day one of the post-Macron era,” Bardella wrote on X. And Marine Le Pen, who is widely expected to be RN’s candidate for the French presidency in 2027, said at a rally that the party is “ready to take over power if the French give us their trust in the upcoming national elections."   

The liberal Renew Europe group – in which Macron’s party sits in the EP – lost a total of 23 seats to win 79, according to EP projections. But the group’s vice president, Iskra Mihaylova, declined to comment on Macron’s fortunes. “This is the internal national decision of the president of France,” she said in remarks to the EP Sunday night.  

The Greens/EFA group also suffered major loses, taking home just 53 seats compared to the 71 it held at the end of the last term.  

EU politics appears not only more fragmented, but also less intelligible than ever before.

Meanwhile, in Germany, the AfD won roughly 16 per cent of the vote, second only to the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and ahead of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The CDU and the SPD took home 30 per cent and 13.9 per cent, respectively. 

For AfD lead candidate Maximilian Krah, the party’s strong showing is “only the beginning,” he wrote on X on Sunday. “Despite all the smear campaigns, we have opened up completely new possibilities for patriotic politics,” he added. Krah was forced to suspend his campaign for the EP late last month after saying in an interview with the Financial Times that not all SS members were criminals.   

On the other end of the spectrum, the Left group lost one seat, winning 36 seats on Sunday night, projections showed.  

“Overall, EU politics appears not only more fragmented, but also less intelligible than ever before,” Alberto Alemanno, professor of EU law at the HEC Paris Business School and founder of The Good Lobby advocacy group, told The Parliament. “The post-elections period won’t be linear but bumpier than ever.” 

Note: Seat counts are being updated as revised projections are released. 

Categories

EU Institutions