Politics & News

Shifting Right: EU Election Results Add Uncertainty to Europe’s Future

Hundreds of millions of Europeans have cast their votes to select 720 members of the European Parliament, with provisional results showing a clear shift to the right.

While vote counting is still in progress in some ballots, the outcome shows the winners and the losers across the EU’s 27 member states, reported the Associated Press (AP). The vote dealt a blow to the leaders of France and Germany, whereas Italy’s leader has cemented her role as a kingmaker.

Macron’s Defeat

The results of the election have prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to dissolve the parliament and call a snap national election, with the first round on June 30, in a risky move that could deal his party more losses.

Acknowledging the defeat, Macron said: “I’ve heard your message, your concerns, and I won’t leave them unanswered,” adding that a snap parliamentary election only underscored his democratic credentials.

Shifting Right: EU Election Results Add Uncertainty to Europe’s Future
Macron speaking after the results

Meanwhile, the far-right National Rally party (RN), led by Marine Le Pen, dominated the French polls. It won over 30% of votes, or nearly twice as much as Macron’s centrist Renew party. Celebrating victory, Le Pen said: “We’re ready to turn the country around, ready to defend the interests of the French, ready to put an end to mass immigration.”

Blow to Scholz 

In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s ruling Social Democratic party was humiliated as the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) surged into second place with 16.5%, unaffected by scandals.

European Parliament Election Results Add Uncertainty to Europe’s Future
Damaged posters of Olaf Scholz

AfD leader Alice Weidel said: “After all the prophecies of doom, after the barrage of the last few weeks, we are the second strongest force.”

The Greens, the second-biggest party in Scholz’s coalition, also suffered a massive loss in Sunday election, as they fell to 11.9%, reported Reuters. Additionally, Scholz’s Social Democrats and the third coalition partner, Free Democrats (FDP), have shown poor performance, with 14% and 5% respectively.

Meloni’s Victory

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party has secured 28% of the votes, boosting Meloni’s status as a kingmaker in Europe. Furthermore, these results strengthen Meloni’s leadership at home and confirm her party’s position as the most popular in Italy.

Commenting on the results, Meloni said: “I’m proud that we are heading to the G7 and to Europe with the strongest government of all.”

Center-right Gains

The biggest group in the European Parliament so far is the Christian Democrats, led by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. During her campaign, von der Leyen had shifted further to the right on issues including migration and climate. She had flirted with the idea of working with a political group further right.

Shifting Right: EU Election Results Add Uncertainty to Europe’s Future
Ursula von der Leyen

On Sunday, she offered to build a coalition with the Social Democrats and the pro-business Liberals. Von der Leyen said: “We are by far the strongest party, we are the anchor of stability.” She added that the results bring “great stability for the parties in the center. We all have interest in stability and we all want a strong and effective Europe.”

Seats Distribution

The center-right European People’s Party (EPP), dominated by Germany’s Christian Democrats, will form the biggest political group in the new legislature, gaining more 5 seats to raise its total seats to 189. Ursula von der Leyen, a member of the EPP celebrated the results, as she seeks a second five-year term at the helm of EU Commission.

“No majority can be formed without the EPP and together … We will build a bastion against the extremes from the left and from the right,” she said. “But it is also true that extremes on the left and the right have gained support and this is why the result comes with great responsibility for the parties in the center,” she added later.

However, von der Leyen may still need support from right-wing nationalists, such as Meloni’s party, to secure a parliamentary majority, giving Meloni and her allies at the European Conservative and Reformists (ECR) more clout.

Shifting Right: EU Election Results Add Uncertainty to Europe’s Future
Giorgia Meloni

According to projections, the center-left Socialists and Democrats, dominated by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist Workers Party, will be the second biggest political group in the EU Parliament, with 135 seats.

Meanwhile, the euro-sceptic nationalist groups ECR, dominated by Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) and Meloni’s Brothers of Italy; along with Identity and Democracy (ID), dominated by France RN; and lawmakers from Germany’s AfD, secured together 146 seats.

Provisional results also showed that the pro-business Renew group, dominated by Macron’s Renaissance party, secured 83 seats, while the Greens gained only 53 seats.

EU Future

The EU Parliament plays a significant role in reviewing and approving new legislation. The shift towards right could have serious implications on important policy areas over the next five years.

The EU has spent the last five years forging laws to achieve its 2030 climate change targets. However, a more EU-sceptic parliament could attempt to undermine those laws.

Although election results will not have a direct impact on EU support for Ukraine or defense policies, the Parliament will play a role in developing plans to promote pan-European cooperation between countries and companies on defense projects. Euro-sceptic gains could hinder these efforts.

The European Parliament approves free trade agreements before they can enter force. But the presence of greater numbers of nationalist Euro-sceptics could make pushing trade agreements through parliament more difficult.

Furthermore, nationalist right-wing parties could undermine European efforts to embrace a united stance in the face of challenges posed by major rivals, such as China and the US, on industry-related issues.

The EU will also need to make reforms before admitting new members, including Ukraine, Moldova and Western Balkan countries. With the far-right having a stronger voice, however, this could be challenging.

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