EU elections 2024: Who lost and won, and who was hurt?

The centre right held ground, but a surge for the far right could impact policymaking in Brussels.

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni speaks following the announcement of the partial results of the European Parliament elections, in Rome, Italy [Alberto Lingria/Reuters]

It was a good weekend for the far right across the European Union, and a nightmare for liberals and greens, as residents in 27 countries went to the polls to elect the bloc’s new parliament.

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stood its ground, remaining the strongest group in the European Parliament. “We will stop them — this is for sure,” von der Leyen told her supporters, triumphant in her tone.

But a growing far-right presence at the heart of Europe is expected to shake up policies in Brussels. As von der Leyen aims for a second term as European Commission president, she will have to deal with a parliament less environmentally friendly, more fragmented and increasingly unwelcoming towards migrants, observers say.

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Here’s how the EU voted — and the key winners and losers.

The big shift

Winners

  • The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) confirmed itself as the 720-seat chamber’s biggest bloc, gaining eight more seats compared to the 2019 elections for a total of 182.
  • The far-right Identity and Democracy (ID), led by France’s Marine Le Pen, won 58 seats, nine more compared to five years ago.
  • Nonaligned parties – which include parties from both the right and the left that do not belong to one of the recognised political groups – won 99 seats, 37 more than in 2019.
  • The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), dominated by Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, earned four more seats than five years ago.

Losers

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  • The centre-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) lost four seats but the group remains the second strongest bloc in the parliament with 135 seats. Still, it came second in big countries such as Spain, where it ranked as the first party in 2019.
  • The liberal Renew Europe (RE) lost 22 seats in a major blow.
  • The Greens party, which made strong gains in the 2019 elections, also took a major hit by losing 19 seats.

Such gains and setbacks point to a strong shift in the political atmosphere in Europe compared to the previous round of votes in 2019, according to analysts.

“The wars in Ukraine and in Gaza, along with an ongoing economic crisis across the bloc – all of that contributes to a much more anxious climate, which also makes voters look for more security,” said Vessela Tcherneva, the European Council on Foreign Relations’ deputy director. “And the far right is promising them more security.”

But, Tcherneva noted, EU elections are also referendums on national leaders.

Who are the big losers and winners among national leaders?

Let’s unpack:

  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) suffered a crushing defeat, securing about 14 percent of the vote — coming in third place behind the conservative alliance of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU), which secured 30 percent of the vote, and the big gainer, the extreme-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which scored its best results in history with 16 percent of the vote.
  • The vote triggered a political earthquake in France, where Le Pen won 30 percent of the vote with her National Rally (RN) party – double compared to President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance (RE) party. As a result, Macron dissolved parliament and called for snap elections. The president now has three weeks to convince French voters to back his party.
  • It wasn’t a great night for Hungary’s nationalist leader Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party. While he got nearly 44 percent of the vote, it was the party’s worst-ever result in an European Parliament election.
  • Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was a definite winner, her Brothers of Italy getting nearly 30 percent of the vote. It’s the perfect political backdrop for her, as she prepares to preside over the Group of Seven (G7) leaders summit later this week in Fasano.

What does it all mean?

Despite their overall gains, far-right parties are divided among themselves. For instance, the ID kicked out the German AfD in May after comments from a leader of the party indicating sympathy with the Nazis.

“Cooperating in the name of a superior objective is not really their beloved exercise,” said Olaf Bohnke, Berlin director of the Alliance of Democracies Foundation, a non-profit organisation, speaking of far-right parties.

Still, said Bohnke, these far-right groups could slow down or block EU policies – especially those related to climate change, migration and foreign policy, including aid to Ukraine.

Source: Al Jazeera

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