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Eurosceptic parties gain in EU election, France calls snap national vote

2 min

Voters in 21 EU countries including France and Germany will conclude a four-day election for the European Parliament on Sunday, which is expected to shift the assembly to the right and boost the numbers of eurosceptic nationalists.

French Jordan Bardella, President of the French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National - RN) party and head of the RN list for the European elections, and Marine Le Pen, President of the French far-right National Rally party parliamentary group, address party members after the polls closed during the European Parliament elections, in Paris, June 9, 2024. Reuters/Sarah Meyssonnier

Far-right parties made gains in elections to the European Parliament on Sunday, prompting a bruised French President Emmanuel Macron to call a shock election and adding uncertainty to Europe's future political direction.

While the centre, liberal and green parties are set to retain the balance of power in the 720-seat parliament, the vote dealt a domestic blow to the leaders of both France and Germany, raising questions about how the European Union's major powers can drive policy in the bloc.

Making a risky gamble in a bid to seek to reestablish his authority, Macron called a parliamentary election, with the first round on June 30.

Like Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also endured a painful night where his Social Democrats scored their worst result ever, suffering at the hands of the mainstream conservatives and hard right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

A rightwards shift inside the European Parliament may make it tougher to pass new legislation that might be needed to respond to security challenges, the impact of climate change or industrial competition from China and the United States.

However, exactly how much clout the euro-sceptic nationalist parties will wield will depend on their ability to overcome their differences and work together. They are currently split between two different families, and some parties and lawmakers for now lie outside these groupings.


The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) will be the biggest political family in the new legislature, gaining five seats to field 181 deputies, a centralised exit poll showed.

The EPP result is good news for EPP member Ursula von der Leyen who seeks a second five-year term at the helm of the powerful EU executive arm.

And she was quick to present herself as a shield against extremes."We are the anchor of stability," von der Leyen told cheering supporters at the EPP's election night event in Brussels.

"No majority can be formed without the EPP and together ... We will build a bastion against the extremes from the left and from the right."

However von der Leyen may still need support from some right-wing nationalists, such as Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy to secure a parliamentary majority, giving Meloni and her European Conservative and Reformists (ECR) allies more leverage - which could upset other potential allies.


The centre-left Socialists and Democrats are poised to be the second biggest political family, even as they lost four lawmakers to end up with 135, the exit poll showed.

Political observers attribute the shift to the right to the rise in the cost of living, concerns about migration and the cost of the green transition as well as the war in Ukraine -- worries that nationalist and populist parties have seized on.

"I think a lot of people felt that Europe is doing things not with people, but just doing it on top of people," Greens' lead candidate Bas Eickhout told Reuters in an interview, asked why the far right was doing so well.

"And I think here we need to come up with a credible answer, otherwise, we're only getting further to the far right," he said, after the Greens and liberals lost ground in the election.

Eurosceptic nationalist groups ECR and Identity and Democracy (ID) and hard-right lawmakers not yet affiliated to an EU political family from Germany's AfD secured together 149 seats, a gain of 22, the centralised exit poll showed.

The exit poll projected that pro-European centre-right, centre-left, liberal and Green parties will retain a majority of 451 seats, but one which is significantly slimmed down compared to their 488 in the outgoing chamber.

Europe's Green parties in particular suffered heavy losses, subsiding to 53 deputies from 71 in the outgoing parliament.

The European Parliament co-decides with the intergovernmental European Council on laws governing the 27-nation bloc of 450 million people.

The exit poll gave the ECR two more deputies than in the last parliament for a total of 71 and the far-right ID group 13 more seats for a total of 62.

The number of non-affiliated deputies who may choose to join other groups, including the euro-sceptics, jumped by 40 to 102, the exit poll said.

By Jan Strupczewski, Andrew Gray and Kate Abnett



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