A conservative wave has crashed upon the shores of the Old Continent. From June 6 to 9, tens of millions of citizens from the European Union’s 27 member states voted to elect the 720 members of the European Parliament for the next five years. A lot was on the line for a Europe that faces a war in Ukraine on its doorstep, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, struggling economies, increased migration and climate change. The results ultimately proved promising for right and far-right political parties, who are set to increase their representation in Parliament.

The mainstream center-right group, the European People’s Party, finished first, adding seven seats to its previous 174. This bodes well for Ursula von der Leyen, the outgoing, up-for-reelection president of the European Commission who is a member of the party. The success of the EPP should help maintain the EU’s status quo from the last five years.

It is also true that the hard-line nationalist parties of Europe will have a greater voice within the halls of Brussels and Strasbourg. France and, to a lesser extent, Germany were struck by a far-right tsunami that has shaken the political establishment of Europe’s two most populous countries to its core. 

The results ultimately proved promising for right and far-right political parties, who are set to increase their representation in Parliament.

In Germany, the far-right Alternative for Germany party made strong gains, coming in second place with 15.9% of the vote, according to provisional results. Its top candidate, Maximilian Krah, is under judicial investigation for his ties to China and Russia and has come under intense scrutiny for comments he made minimizing the crimes of the Nazis’ notorious SS. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left Social Democratic Party came in a disappointing third with 13.9% of the votes. 

In France, the anti-immigrant Rassemblement National’s list, led by rising political star Jordan Bardella, won nearly a third of the vote (31.4%), more than doubling President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party (14.6%). The RN’s success has caused political upheaval in France, leading Macron to dissolve the Assemblée Nationale (France’s parliament), a first since 1997 when Jacques Chirac took the gamble of strengthening his right-wing majority but ended up losing to a left-wing coalition, forcing the former president to co-govern with Socialist Lionel Jospin as prime minister. Two rounds of parliamentary elections have been scheduled for June 30 and July 7. Macron’s political gamble is a huge one that risks his majority governing coalition, as well as opens the door to the RN taking the majority, which could force him to co-govern with the 28-year-old Bardella as prime minister. Calls for the president’s resignation could also be expected to echo throughout French political circles. The Socialist Party , led by Raphael Glucksmann, had a successful election, trailing the presidential camp with 13.8% of the vote. PS and the rest of the French left are desperately trying to unify under a single banner in the hopes of blocking an RN French parliamentary majority in less than a month’s time. 

In Italy, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s national-conservative Fratelli d’Italia led the way, winning 28.8% of the vote, or what will translate to 24 seats in parliament, an uptick from the 26% recorded in the 2022 Italian legislative elections. The result confirms Meloni’s hold on the country. Her party intends to engage with France’s RN in the hopes of forming a majority in the EU Parliament. The center-left Partitot Democratico came in second with 24.6% of the vote, five points more than in legislative elections. Elly Schlein, the 37-year-old party’s secretary general and the first woman to be elected head of the party, hailed the election as “an extraordinary result.” She is currently the strongest opposition force in Italy and comes from a left that wants to create a bridge between the political movement and civil society. 

France and, to a lesser extent, Germany were struck by a far-right tsunami that has shaken the political establishment of Europe’s two most populous countries to its core. 

Despite the assurance of more radical right-wing voices present in the EU Parliament, a majority is far from certain. There are two far-right groups represented in Parliament, CRE and ID, who don’t always see eye to eye. They would create an alliance between the two groups, which have deep divisions. Leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Meloni are quite socially conservative, whereas France’s RN voted to enshrine abortion into the French constitution. On the flip side, the RN is empathetic to Putin and Russia while Meloni has voiced her support for Ukraine. But the overriding commonality is a shared vision of Europe as a white, Christian nationalist, anti-immigration continent. The idea of a union is not out of the question.

In Poland, Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s pro-European center-right Civic Coalition party defeated the national populist Law and Justice Party with 37.1% of the vote. The former EPP leader declared, “In Poland, democracy is triumphant. We have shown that we are a beacon of hope in Europe, and the leaders of the European Union.” The Civic Coalition victory should help reinforce the status quo. 

Throughout Nordic countries, far-right parties who have seen success in recent years did not meet expectations. Meanwhile, the Green party achieved its best-ever score in a European election, with 13.8% of the vote. Party leader Alice Bah Kuhnke said the result showed Swedes’ desire for “a policy aligned with what science says.” Generally, however, the Greens were the evening’s biggest losers, having lost a quarter of their seats in the election after emerging in 2019 as an important progressive power in Parliament.

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