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Far right makes strong gains in EU elections as center holds majority

In Business
June 09, 2024

A woman casts her ballot paper for the European elections at a polling station.

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Populist, far-right parties won record support in this year’s European Parliament elections, according to provisional results on Monday.

The far-right Identity and Democracy group made major gains, while the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists saw a slight uptick in votes. The center-right European People’s Party once again won the most parliamentary seats, with a marginally bigger lead than before. Allied centrist groups — of which the EPP is the largest — were set to retain a majority in the Parliament despite the far right’s surge.

The liberal Renew Europe and the Greens/European Free Alliance, meanwhile, both lost a significant number of seats.

Here is the 2024 vote breakdown, versus the previous parliament:

  • European People’s Party (EPP) — 184 seats, up from 176
  • Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&D) — 139 seats, unchanged from 139
  • Renew Europe (RE) — 80 seats, down from 102
  • European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) — 73 seats, up from 69
  • Identity and Democracy (ID) — 58 seats, up from 49
  • Greens/European Free Alliance — 52 seats, down from 71
  • The Left — 36 seats, down from 37
  • Non-attached members (NI) — 45 seats, down from 62

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission and an EPP member, said her party had once again shown itself to be the “strongest” in Parliament.

“We were determined, we were united, and now we won the European elections. Voters have entrusted us with a very strong mandate,” von der Leyen said during a press conference, shortly after the preliminary results were announced.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats faced its worst-ever result Sunday, falling to third place behind the far-right Alternative for Germany.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for a surprise parliamentary election after his Renaissance party suffered a heavy defeat to Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally, part of ID.

Macron will be making a 'huge political gamble' with French snap elections: Analyst

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing Brothers of Italy, part of ECR, came out on top.

Austria, the Netherlands and Poland also saw significant support for right-wing and far-right parties, indications showed.

The projections on Sunday followed a four-day, EU-wide vote. Over 400 million people across the EU’s 27 member states were eligible to vote for the next Parliament — one of three institutions at the heart of the EU.

Just over half (51%) of those eligible cast their vote, early estimates suggested — broadly in line with 2019 levels. Voter turnout has been an ongoing sticking point in EU elections, with electoral disengagement and hot weather among the likely reasons that voters avoided the polls.

The European Parliament, which is responsible for deciding EU legislation, is the only directed elected institution within the bloc. It is made up of Members of European Parliament (MEPs), who are elected by each member state and come together to form European party groups.

The Parliament also plays a role in the EU’s budget, which it needs to approve and monitor, and elects the president of the European Commission, one of the key positions within the EU.

The incoming parliament has 720 seats, with the most populous states responsible for electing the most MEPs. Germany holds the top spot with 96, while Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta each have six.

— CNBC’s Sophie Kiderlin contributed to this article.

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