What to expect from the new European parliament?

Political parties across Europe have been holding together for decades to keep radical options away from positions of power, using a strategy known as the cordon sanitaire. Now when European elections are over, it is clear that national options across Europe won a convincing victory, with results in Southeast Europe following the trend. Center-right and far-right parties will take the largest number of seats thanks to triumphs in Europe’s biggest countries: Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland.

In the European elections that are behind us, the European People’s Party (EPP) achieved the expected victory and according to current data will be present in the Parliament with around 184 deputies. They are the only centrist party that has grown in these elections: the center left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) have remained stable, while the liberal Renew Europe has suffered a significant blow.

Recent European elections show a shift towards right-wing parties, particularly in France, Italy, Spain and Poland.

The two groups in the European Parliament that are on the right side of the spectrum, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the Identity and Democracy (ID) group, will have 131 seats — not counting the Alternative for Germany with 15 deputies, 10 representatives of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz, 6 belonging to the Polish Confederation, and 3 members of the Bulgarian Revival. If the right were to form a single group, although there is currently little chance of that, it would be the second largest force in the parliament, behind the traditionally dominant European People’s Party.

European elections in Southeast Europe

The results of the European elections in the region followed general trends and there were no big surprises. The parties on the right side of the political spectrum confirmed their leadership, and this election round was also marked by the appearance of new far-right parties that recorded enviable results.

In Croatia, the ruling party HDZ (EPP) won 34.6% of the vote, confirming its strong support among voters from the secured 6 parliamentary seats, i.e. 2 places more than they had in the previous convocation. The novelty is represented by the right-wing Domovinski pokret, which managed to secure 1 parliamentary seat with 8.8%, most likely as part of the Identity and Democracy group.

The results of the European elections in the region followed general trends – right wing parties confirmed their leadership, and the election round was marked by the appearance of new far-right parties that recorded enviable results.

Orbán’s Fidesz once again confirmed its dominance by winning 44.6% of the vote, confirming its dominance with 11 parliamentary seats, which is still 2 seats less than in the previous convocation. Those two seats probably went to the party that represents the absolute surprise of this electoral cycle — Tisza, for which this is the first European election, won a significant 29.7% and 7 parliamentary seats. The centrist Momentum lost all its parliamentary seats as it fell to just 3.7%, while the far-right party Mi Hazank gained 6.8% and secured its first representative in the European Parliament.

Janez Janša’s SDS  recorded a more than convincing victoryin these elections, with 30.7% of the votes. The victory of the SDS is perhaps not so surprising considering that they have won every European election in Slovenia since 2009. Their result this year is one of the best within the EPP, with which SDS secured as many as 4 parliamentary seats out of a total of 9 that Slovenia has. Prime Minister Robert Golob’s Gibanje Svoboda remained with 2 parliamentary seats, managing to secure 22.1% of support after a series of controversial moves in the campaign such as the recognition of Palestinian independence and the calling of a referendum for the right to voluntary death, i.e. euthanasia.

In Romania, the trend of growth of right-wing options has shown itself more than in other countries of the region, taking into account the emergence and success of right-wing parties that have never participated in European elections before. The PSD-PNL (S&D, EPP) coalition won a convincing 48.7% of the vote, which places them as the key political force in the country. At the same time, the right-wing party AUR (ECR), which has been attracting a lot of attention on the scene of international politics for the last two years, won 14.9% of the vote and thus won 6 parliamentary seats. In addition to AUR, the far-right SOS RO won 2 seats with 5% of the vote, even though this was their first election as well.

Despite the fragmentation, right-wing parties have significant influence in the European Parliament.

In Bulgaria, the GERBS-SDS coalition (EPP) achieved victory with 23.5% of the votes, which allowed them to maintain a dominant position in the country, although this represents a slight drop from 6 to 5 MEPs. Compared to the last election, the Social Democrats faced a drastic drop of 16.2% and won only 2 parliamentary seats, while the far-right Vazrazhdane reached 14.7% (+13.7% compared to the last election) and thus secured their representatives in the parliament, most likely within Identity and Democracy.

What’s next for the righ-wing Parliament?

What pre-election polls did not predict was the complete collapse of the ruling party in France, where the National Rally won almost a third of the vote, resulting in the dissolution of the national parliament. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli D’Italia witnessed similar results, hurting the once-leading right-wing Lega, which lost two-thirds of its parliamentary seats. The same thing happened to the Spanish Vox, which doubled its result from the previous election and reached 6 MEPs, with estimates that the additional 3 seats would have been theirs if they had not been taken over by the right-wing party led by Alvise Peres.

France is certainly the one that received the biggest warning signal from its citizens, considering the scale of the victory of the right over Macron. The surge of right-wing populism in France has provoked President Emmanuel Macron to call national elections that could determine the future of the European Union itself, and which carry great risk for him. All eyes will now be on whether France’s populist wave can sustain its momentum through the upcoming parliamentary elections and carry it into the 2027 presidential election.

France is certainly the one that received the biggest warning signal from its citizens, with the surge of right-wing populism provoking President Emmanuel Macron to call for national elections.

“The President of the Republic cannot remain deaf to the message sent tonight by the citizens of France,” said the President of the National Assembly, Jordan Bardella.

The French were joined by Germany’s ruling coalition, which suffered a heavy blow: Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, with less than 14%, recorded their worst result in more than a century. The center-right Christian Democratic Union won 30.2 percent of the vote, while the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) also performed well, finishing second with 16 percent, an increase of 5 percentage points on the 2019 EU election. AfD has made good use of the growing concern over the huge influx of asylum seekers in the last decade.

The first official role of the newly elected MEPs is to vote or reject the proposal of a candidate for the leader of Europe: the president of the European Commission. Influential political groups such as EPP or S&D will set the direction of the Commission’s agenda for the next five years. While they are unlikely to be able to co-ordinate as a single group within the European Parliament – ​​largely due to divisions over issues such as Russia – they will still be able to influence the EU’s direction on everything from immigration to climate policies.

What’s next?

The main challenge for Ursula von der Leyen, the EPP’s re-election candidate for the presidency, in the coming days and weeks will be whether she can reach an agreement with the traditional centrist parties — the Socialists and Liberals — and build a majority. All in all, the three big central groups look set to have just over 400 seats, posing a formidable challenge to her re-election. A candidacy will be rejected if only about 10 percent of MPs from the main parties oppose it, and the rate of rebellion is usually much higher.

The main challenge for Ursula von der Leyen will be whether she can reach an agreement with the traditional centrist parties — the Socialists and Liberals — and build a majority.

Because of this situation, von der Leyen may be forced to look for other allies, from the Greens to the Fratelli d’Italia. While the EPP strongly rejects far-right xenophobia and Euroscepticism, they are aware that their constituents largely share the same concerns about the cost of living, migration and the feeling that Europe’s traditional economic branches — manufacturing and agriculture — are underdeveloped due to the imposition of Green Agenda regulations. Highlighting its position in the culture war over EU identity, the EPP opened its EU election manifesto with a commitment to Europe’s “Judeo-Christian roots” in an attempt to prevent its voters from drifting to the far right, and to convince them that they would be committed to preserving Europe’s national and cultural identities.

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