Sunday’s election results are set to reshape the EU’s governing coalition, as far-right parties and pro-European greens and liberals each make big gains at the expense of the establishment left and right.
Current projections show the two largest parliamentary groups maintaining their positions at the head of the bloc: the European People's Party (EPP) is on track for 180 seats, and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) for 146. Both groups, however, have suffered considerable losses since 2014: 35 seats for EPP and 40 for S&D.
“The two parties have not crumbled – it’s not a catastrophe – but they alone can no longer set the tone,” says FRANCE 24’s international affairs correspondent Gauthier Rybinski. The end of the grand coalition’s dominance will force a “repoliticisation of the debate” over EU issues, he says.
A far-right tide?
From France to Hungary, anti-immigrant parties scored several important victories on Sunday, but the far right’s results fell short of the continent-wide sweep many analysts had predicted.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche(LREM) party and its opponents alike were determined to make the European elections a referendum on Macron’s presidency so far. Ultimately, this gamble swung in the far right’s favour, with Marine Le Pen's National Rally capturing a record number of votes (5.3 million, up from 4.7 million in 2014) and scraping past LREMto claim victory with 23.3% of votes.
This score marks a slight dip from the National Rally's (then National Front) 24.9% win in 2014 but nevertheless a striking consolidation of the far right’s place in the French political landscape in an election with considerably higher turnout. Macron’s party and Le Pen’s will both enter the new European Parliament with 23 seats.
In Italy, Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party cemented its hold on the electoral landscape with 34.3%, to the detriment of its coalition partner in national government, the Five-Star Movement, which claimed half as many votes (17.1%) to come in third. As in France and the UK, the far-right League made its gains in part by eclipsing a long-standing major party of the right: former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italiaclaimed less than 9% of votes.
But it was in Hungary that the populist, anti-immigrant right saw its most commanding lead. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party was virtually the only party on the continent to win an outright majority, with 52.3% of the vote. (The only other party to do so was the Labour party of Malta.) Fidesz, which is currently suspended from the EPP but has so far declined to ally with Le Pen and Salvini’s parties, could play a key role in shaping the EU’s new governing coalition if Germany’s Weber becomes commissioner.