European elections: The world’s second largest democracy swings to the right

, by Paul Brachet, Translated by Tiffany Williams

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

European elections: The world's second largest democracy swings to the right
A polling station in Malbuisson, France, the country with the record for the most candidate lists: 38.

Between 6 and 9 June, 400 million Europeans were called to vote in elections for the European Parliament, the European Union’s representative body. After a bitter campaign, focused more on national issues than European ones, citizens have elected a Parliament dominated by the right, the radical right and the far right. Around half of eligible voters took part, with a turnout of 51%. This is the second year running that we’ve seen an increase in turnout, and a corresponding decline in abstention.

Success for the right-wing bloc

The big winners of the European election, by far, were the parties and political groups on the right side of the European Parliament’s hemicycle. The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) have held on to their place as the leading party with more than a quarter of the votes, translating to 186 seats. In most Member States, the traditional right-wing parties campaigned on more radical policies, generally borrowed from the far right and the radical right. However, this campaign technique did not prevent either the radical right or the far right from acheiving a forward surge. The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) gained 70 seats, making ECR the group to gain the most new parliamentary seats. The second, the far-right group Identity and Democracy, kept its 60 seats.

The left, represented by the social democrats of the S&D group and the radical socialists of The Left group, have managed to hold on despite most voters disavowing social democratic parties. The S&D group kept its place as the second largest party with 133 seats, while The Left kept 36 of the 38 seats it had between 2019 and 2024.

Liberals and Greens in disarray

The losers of this election were the liberal and green parties. The first, the Greens/EFA, lost 21 seats, going down to just 53, and the second, the Renew group, lost 16 seats, settling at 82 members.

We are yet to know why the green vote in Europe has collapsed, particularly in Germany and France. On both sides of the Rhine, electors have sought to punish green parties for their inability to keep up as environmental protection has become a policy point across left and centre parties, even though this was hardly mentioned during the campaign. In France, the Écologistes went from 12 members down to 5, while the Grünen in Germany saw similar losses, going from 21 members to 15.

As for the liberals, their losses can largely be blamed on electors’ disaffection with their national liberal parties. In France, the liberals led by Valerie Hayer have crumbled due to the French people’s discontent with the past seven years of Macron’s presidency: the party has gone from 23 seats in 2019 to 15 in 2024. Pushing the President Emmanuel Macron to dissolve the National Assembly. In Spain, the Ciudadanos party which once won than 12% of the votes and 8 members, has literally disappeared. This year, with barely 1% of the votes, the party will send no representatives to the Strasbourg Parliament.

New Parliament, new balance of power? Maybe, maybe not!

Will the new European Parliament change the balance of power in the EU? It’s still too early to know. But it’s very possible that the balance, generally held by a large centre consisting of the EPP, Renew, the Greens and S&D, will remain as it is. Indeed, any change will depend on the direction the EPP takes as a pivot party: will they choose to hold the centrist majority, or will they turn towards other partners sitting at their right?

Before we can find out the answer, this summer, parties will be negotiating their positions in this legislature in every sense of the word, to know where they will be and what group they belong to. Following these many talks, the parties, within more or less defined groups, will need to support (or not support) the different candidates proposed for the Council, Heads of State and governments for the top jobs: President of the Commission, President of the Council, President of the Parliament and High Representative for Foreign Affairs of the European Union.

This will be the first test for a European Parliament which has never been so right-wing.

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