Voters across the EU over the weekend have voted for 720 members of the European Parliament.  

Though centrist mainstream parties kept an overall majority in the European Parliament, extreme right parties across the bloc notched a string of high-profile wins. After record results in 2019, the Liberals and Greens have lost seats. 

  • European People’s Party (EPP): 186 seats, +10
  • Socialists and Democrats (S&D): 135 seats, -4 
  • Renew Europe: 79 seats, -23
  • European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR): 73 seats, +4
  • Identity and Democracy (ID): 58 seats, +9 
  • Greens/European Free Alliance: 53 seats, -18
  • The Left: 36 seats, -1 
  • Non-attached Members (NI): 45 seats, -17
  • Newly elected members, unaffiliated as of now: 55 seats

Disclaimer: Provisional results via the European Parliament, 11/06/2024, 17:52. In comparison to the outgoing parliament. 

“Democracy is alive,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola stressed as she spoke from the stage of the Parliament’s hemicycle set up as a press room during election night to more than 1,000 present journalists.

According to the projections, the majority composed of the centre-right EPP, Socialists and liberal Renew stands at around 400 seats, with a rather clear margin compared to the minimum threshold of 360. Theoretically, these three pro-EU parties can do without any external support:Their coalition has been dubbed the “Ursula majority” throughout the last legislative period. 

“We will build a bastion against the extremes from the left and from the right,” vowed European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, whose European People’s Party secured its place as strongest force, and who herself is looking for a second term as Commission president. 

Major gains for far-right in Germany, France; Meloni strong in Italy

Prior to the elections, a shift to the right in European politics has been predicted. The elections have shown that more voters than previously have given their vote to far-right parties than before.

  • Strongest force: France, (RN; 31,4%), Austria (FPÖ, 25.4%), Italy (FdI, 28.8%), Hungary (Fidesz, 44,8%), Belgium (VB, 22,94%)
  • Second strongest force: Germany (AfD, 15,9%), Poland (PiS, 36,2%), Netherlands (PVV, 17.7%), Romania (AUR, 14.9%)
  • Third strongest force: Spain (VOX; 9,6%), Portugal (Chega, 9.8%), Slovakia (Republika,12.5%)   

Disclaimer: Numbers are preliminary and are based on European Parliament numbers via dpa-Infocom, latest update on June 12, 9:43 AM. The numbers for Belgium via IBZ.

In Italy, where slightly less than half of the eligible voters cast their ballot, Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy (FdI) won the election with 28.8 percent of the votes. The prime minister’s party surpassed their national election result of 2022, when the FdI won 26 percent, strengthening Meloni’s stance both domestically and on the EU level. 

In France, the far-right has massively outperformed President Macron’s alliance led by his Renaissance party. Raking in 31.4 percent, Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) scored its best results ever, compared to 14.6 percent of Macron’s centrist alliance led by his Renaissance party. The results are a blow for Macron who has long portrayed himself as a bulwark against the far right in Europe.

Subsequently, the French president called a high-risk national legislative election. France will go to the polls to vote for a new National Assembly on June 30, with a second round on July 7, Macron said in an address to the nation.

Contrary to France, the German government has dismissed calls for an early election due to the coalition parties’ losses in the elections. 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s – consisting of his party, the Social Democrats, as well as the Greens and the Liberals – secured less than a third of the vote combined (31 percent). The Social Democratic Party saw its worst results yet in a National election. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) received nearly 16 percent of the vote, coming in second. The opposition alliance CDU/CSU (Conservatives) came in first place with 30 percent. 

In the Czech Republic, the opposition also won. The ANO movement gained over 26 percent of the votes. The win showcased voters’ dissatisfaction with their current government in a record-turnout European election.

Losses for the far-right in Portugal and Sweden

While the far-right gained ground in the elections in some places, prominently in EU key players France and Germany, election results in Sweden and Portugal dealt a blow to far right parties.

In Portugal, the far-right Chega party received 9.8 percent of votes. After making a splash in the legislative elections three months ago with 18 percent, it has failed to achieve the goal of electoral victory which its leader had mapped out on the campaign trail. 

The Swedish Democrats (ECR) lost support for the first time since their national breakthrough 15 years ago, coming in with a two-percent-loss at 13,2 percent. The far-right party is the second biggest in Sweden’s national parliament but only secured fourth place in the EU elections. One of the reasons for their performance could be that the traditional Swedish Democrats voter does not care much about the European elections. 

No unity in the far-right movements, limiting their weight

While all share anti-immigrant platforms, divisions run deep between those wanting to keep up Europe’s role helping Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion, such as Meloni’s party, and those leery of it, which include Le Pen’s RN.

“The voices of the extreme right and the populist right cannot be added together, this will limit their direct weight in the legislature,” Sebastien Maillard, of the Jacques Delors Institute think tank, told French news agency AFP.

“But the brown (far-right) wave, particularly evident in France, will inevitably permeate the political climate in which the Commission will act and the majority will have to take it into account,” he added.

A woman casts a ballot paper for the European elections. For the first time, people in Germany aged 16 and over will be allowed to cast a ballot in the European elections in two weeks' time, in a milestone for voting rights in the country.
The voter turnout in the EU stands at more than 50 percent. However, some countries have seen a low turnout that is credited to election fatigue or the fact that the European elections are not as important to citizens as national ones. Photo: Jan Woitas/dpa

Election fatigue possible cause for low participation

According to preliminary numbers by the European Parliament, the voter turnout stands at 51.01 percent which is a slight uptick compared to the 50.66 percent in the 2019 elections. 

In some member states, multiple elections or referendums were held simultaneously to the European elections – such as in Belgium or Slovenia.

The lowest voter turnout has been recorded in Croatia with 21.34 percent, even lower than the already low turnout of 29.85 percent in 2019. Lithuania (28.35 percent) is the only other EU country with a voter turnout lower than 30 percent. 

Low voter turnout in Croatia is attributed to the recent parliamentary elections, likely leaving the public fed up with both elections and respective campaigns. In addition, the public considers European elections less important than those at the National level.

Bulgaria, where voter turnout was also low (33.79 percent), held two-in-one elections, voting for members of the European as well as the National Parliament – for the sixth time in three years. 

Ingrid Shikova, EU policies professor at Sofia’s St Kliment Ohridski University, told Bulgarian news agency BTA that there were no major surprises in the European Parliament elections in Bulgaria. “What we lost from the fact that National and European elections were held simultaneously was that our National problems somehow overshadowed the European ones,” she said.

In Slovenia however, the voter turnout exceeded 41 percent which is twelve percentage points higher than in 2019 and marks the highest turnout since 2004. The simultaneous vote on three consultative referendums on assisted dying, preferential vote in a general election and cannabis use probably contributed to the turnout.

In Belgium, where three elections – Federal, National, European – were held at the same time and voting is mandatory, the voter turnout of 89.82 percent marks the highest among the EU-27.

The EU’s hiring: What are the next steps?

The heads of State and Government of the European Union will meet informally on June 17 for a dinner in Brussels. During the dinner, they will discuss distribution of the EU’s top jobs – the presidency of the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament as well as the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy – for the first time.

At the end of the month, on June 27 and 28, the heads of state of the EU  will hold a two-day summit with the goal of reaching an agreement on how the above-mentioned positions will be distributed. 

This article is published weekly. The content is based on news by agencies participating in the enr.

Editor’s note: Correction in paragraph 10, “just over a third of the vote” to “less than a third of the vote”