Europe Headed to the Polls, now what? Insights from the EU Elections







From June 6 to 9, 2024, European citizens were called to cast their ballots in the European Elections, ushering in the 10th parliamentary term (2024 - 2029). This term will see 720 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) take their seats: the plenum will now count an additional 15 deputies, as outlined in the European Council’s Decision No. 2023/2061, which resized the quotas allocated to each Member State according to changes in population. The newly elected parliamentarians will take up their duties in the coming weeks as the official appointments are finalized.



In this election, voter turnout reached 51.01% of eligible participants, showing a modest increase from the 50.66% turnout five years prior. However, participation varied significantly across Member States. In Belgium, where national elections coincided with the European vote, an impressive 89.92% of the population participated. Conversely, Croatia saw only 21.35% of its eligible voters heading to the polls.


Preliminary Outcomes from the European Elections


The recent European Elections, compared to the previous cycle, have seen a slight shift to the right within the European Parliament. Taking into account the proportional system of the allocation of the seats to Member States, the increase of rightist parties in France, Austria and Germany compared to 2019 had a moderate impact on the total of the seats. The European People's Party retains its position as the leading party, with a projection of 189 seats, making up 26.3% of the plenum (+7 MEPs compared to 2019). The Socialists and Democrats continue to be the second political force with 135 seats (18.8%, -19 seats compared to 2019), followed by Renew Europe in third place with 79 seats (11%, -19 seats compared to 2019). Consequently, the political coalition known as the “von der Leyen majority” now holds a total of 403 seats, an increase from 391 in 2019, ensuring they maintain their majority in Parliament.


At the same time, groups on the right spectrum of the Parliament maintain a sizeable presence. The European Conservatives and Reformists have strengthened their presence with 77 seats (10.7%, +17 seats compared to 2019), and Identity and Democracy now hold 58 seats (8.1%, -15 seats compared to 2019), however, we must take into account that the AFD delegation was recently expelled from the ID group. This gain has come at the expense of the Greens, who have dropped to 53 seats (7.4%, -21 compared to 2019). Finally, The Left remains the smallest group with 36 seats (5.0%, -5 compared to 2019), while non-affiliated MEPs – i.e. deputies who do not belong to one of the recognised political groups in the Parliament despite being members of a national party – totalled a number of 91 seats (12.5%, +34 compared to 2019).


It remains to be stressed that there are 52 newly elected MEPs that do not belong to a political group yet. Specifically, MEPs belong to political parties elected for the first time and will need to decide their political affiliation in the coming weeks, potentially altering the current seat distribution as certain political groups might increase their numbers.


European results revealing distinct national trends


Overall, there has been a noticeable advance of right-wing forces in Germany and France, contrasting with the resilience of liberals and greens in northern Europe, and the election results at the national level vary greatly.


In Germany, the CDU-CSU reaffirmed its position as the leading party with 30% of the vote. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) secured 15.9%, becoming the second largest party. The governing coalition of Social Democrats (SPD), Greens (Die Grünen), and Liberals (FDP) collectively garnered 31% (SPD 13.9%, Greens 11.9%, FDP 5.2%). The new far-left party Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW) received 6.2% of the vote.


In France, Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National emerged as the leading party with 31.4%, prompting Emmanuel Macron to announce the dissolution of the National Assembly and call for early elections. His Besoin d'Europe list secured 14.6%, while the socialists of the Réveiller l'Europe list garnered 13.8%. The far-left La France Insoumise obtained 9.9%, followed by the Republicans (Les Républicains) with 7.3%, and the Greens (Les Écologistes) with 5.5%. The Republicans are currently debating a possible alliance with the Right in the national elections, leading to the dismissal of their President, Eric Ciotti.


In Italy, Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d'Italia (right) maintained its leadership with 28.8%. Within the government coalition, Forza Italia (center-right) surpassed the Lega (far-right), obtaining 9.6% and 9% respectively. The Partito Democratico (center-left) confirmed its status as the main opposition party with 24.1%, while the Movimento 5 Stelle (center-left) saw a significant drop to 10%. Alleanza Verdi e Sinistra (left) received 6.8%, while Azione and the Stati Uniti d'Europa (center) failed to surpass the 4% threshold, resulting in no MEPs elected.


In Poland, the Civic Coalition, led by pro-European Donald Tusk, emerged as the leading party with 37.1%, closely followed by the nationalist Law and Justice Party with 36.2%. The far-right Konfederacja achieved 12.1%, making it the third largest force. The People's Party and the Left obtained 6.9% and 6.3% respectively.


In Spain, the Popular Party (PP) garnered 34.2% of the vote, followed by Sánchez's Socialist Party (PSOE) with 30.2%. The far-right Vox received 9.6%, while the far-left parties Sumar and Podemos obtained 4.7% and 3.3% respectively.


Implications of the election results


The outcomes of the recent elections provide a basis for several significant reflections. The shifts in voter preferences and party dynamics reveal evolving trends in political sentiment and coalition-building strategies across Europe. These results underscore the importance of understanding the electorate's priorities and the changing landscape of political alliances. Some specific observations can thus be made.


Firstly, Europe has witnessed a shift towards the center-right in recent political developments, steering clear of extremes. The influence of traditional parties continues to diminish, with the EPP, S&D, and Renew holding a slim majority of around 400 seats, just above the 361 needed for an absolute majority. Although the EPP has made gains, these are offset by losses among liberals and socialists. Some delegations from the three main parties have already stated that they will not vote for a second mandate for Ursula von der Leyen. However, considering the current numbers, it implies that 10% of the MEPs from this majority would vote against her appointment. At the same time, an external support from the ECR and Greens could grant her a second mandate. Having the Greens and ECR on board is also going to be essential for the creation of ad hoc Parliament majorities, particularly on contentious policy issues.


Secondly, Ursula von der Leyen is now rallying centrists for her re-election bid but acknowledges the need for broader support. EPP and allied officials aim to secure a second term for von der Leyen with backing from centrist parties, in the so-called “von der Leyen” majority (EPP+S&D+RE). However, such a majority appears too narrow for guaranteed reliability, necessitating cooperation with other factions. Both the Greens and ECR - particularly Giorgia Meloni’s Italy’s Fratelli d’Italia - have expressed interest in collaboration, contingent upon political concessions that will shape the new Commission's agenda. Greens already said that they can support Ursula von der Leyen if she will support green policies, in addition, the Greens usually vote uniformly, which could be beneficial for von der Leyen in the context of her possible reappointment. On the other side, if she seeks support of ECR or some ECR parties, she could lose even more votes within S&D and RE parties. While this majority can work for the election of the President, the EPP might shift to the right during the legislative work for some dossier, as happened in the last months of the 2019 – 2024 term.


As a result, the majority that supported far-reaching decisions such as the Green Deal over the past five years has weakened. Currently, parties on the right hold a slim relative majority (EPP+ECR+ID = 317 seats) compared to left parties and Greens (The Left+S&D+Greens = 224 seats). Even if the liberal Renew were to align with the centre-left coalition (totaling 303 seats), it would not match the weight of a right-leaning Plenary. This shift signals a potential reevaluation of the Green Deal, with EPP lawmakers advocating for adjustments rather than outright repeal, particularly highlighting considerations around elements like the combustion engine ban.


The new EU institutional setting


Finally, the influence of these elections on the other European institutions must be clearly understood. The next steps of this electoral moment involve a series of pivotal meetings among heads of state and governments in the European Council, known in short as EUCO, which is set to appoint the leading personalities of the EU, especially the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission. An initial informal EUCO gathering is slated for 17 June, followed by a formal EUCO session on 27-28 June. These meetings aim to finalize nominees for those key positions as part of a comprehensive package of "top jobs" that also encompasses the High Representative for foreign policy.


National leaders in the EU Council will conduct the negotiations based on the influence they have gained from the recent elections, which have provided clear insights into their standing within their respective countries. In parallel, this may also prompt government reshuffles, reflecting the shifts in the relative strength of national parties. As EU leaders align their strategies, the balance of power within each country will likely influence the composition and priorities of the new European leadership.


Subsequently, the European Parliament is expected to conduct a vote on the proposed President of the European Commission, tentatively scheduled for 18 July at the earliest or potentially in September, pending procedural arrangements and deliberations. The path toward this vote will mark a crucial moment when the priorities of the new European Commission may become clear. In fact, the President-elect will be required to present a comprehensive policy strategy outlining key priorities for the upcoming five-year term to the Parliament. This political programme will be the starting point for the hearing where the Parliament will vote to either approve or reject the nominee, thus shaping the direction of European governance for the coming years.



Source: FEBIS / EPRS

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