European Elections: Meloni Becomes One of the Most Important European leaders

Building a Conservative Europe - June 16, 2024

Europe swung strongly to the right in the 6th-9th of June European Parliament elections. While in the West the far right confirmed analysts’ predictions and gained ground, in Central and Eastern Europe the European parliamentary elections were dominated by pro-European centrist parties. Of the top two political forces in the European Parliament, only the People’s Party managed to win more seats, while the Social Democrats retained their second position but lost seats. Renew – in third place in the current legislature – is the biggest loser in this month’s elections, with the most seats lost, as it will occupy more than 20 fewer seats in the European Parliament in the next legislature than it currently does. At the other end of the spectrum, the main winners of these elections are the far-right parties, whose success in these elections, beyond winning more seats in the European legislature, has already caused internal political upheavals in several countries. According to the latest official data, around 100 seats in the European Parliament will be occupied by extremists. And that’s just the ID – Identity and Democracy group, which will have around 60, and the radical left, with another 30-plus, but add to that the mandates won by other populist and ultra-conservative parties that are not part of these groups.

The result of the European Parliament elections brings early elections in France and Belgium and instability in Germany and Austria

French President Emanuel Macron has called early parliamentary elections after the landslide victory of Marine Le Pen’s extremist party (and the crushing defeat of his own party). In Belgium, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo resigned in tears after his party suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Flemish conservatives and far-right separatists, who are likely to take the country’s helm after voters gave them around 50% of the vote in the European Parliament.

The failure of the coalition supporting Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Germany shows that “never has a government been as unpopular as the current one”, according to the head of a German polling institute. Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer is not doing too well either, after his party lost – albeit narrowly – to the far right, with both parties scoring around 25% of the vote.

“People have generally become more eurosceptic,” one of the leaders of the far-right AfD party, Alice Weidel, said after the vote. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) saw a big increase in voter choice, coming second in the federal state’s poll with around 15% of the vote, ahead of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s political party, which managed just 14%. In fact, all of Scholz’s coalition parties suffered defeats, with the three – SDU, FDU and Greens – barely matching the winner’s CDU/CSU score.

“This is not a good result for the parties that defend Europe,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on election night after the exit-poll results were announced. 

“I will not be able to continue as if nothing has happened,” he claimed, in an attempt to justify his gesture to dissolve France’s parliament and thus open the process to early elections, a move that responded to the request of the young leader of the Rassemblement National (RN), Jordan Bardella. Marine Le Pen’s RN party won France’s European parliamentary elections by a significant margin over the results of the parties in France’s ruling coalition. RN took a third of the French vote, while Renaissance, the socialists and liberals, barely managed around 30% together. After its victory this year, the RN will have 12 seats in the Strasbourg parliament in addition to its current number. RN will have 30 seats, half the total number of the ID group, a group whose founders include Marine Le Pen.

“By giving the RN list more than 32%, the French have just given us the highest score for a party in the last 40 years,” Marine Le Pen reacted.

Giorgia Meloni becomes one of Europe’s most important leaders

While some of Europe’s top leaders have been “brought to their knees” in the wake of this election, Italy’s ultra-conservative Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has consolidated her position. Her party, Fratelli D’Italia, a member of the ECR Party group, won almost a third of the Italian voter vote, four times more than in the previous European Parliament elections in 2019, and she became one of Europe’s most important leaders.  

Although in some countries centrist parties have retained their positions, the strong rise of the extreme, populist right, in many cases in second place, shows that it has managed to capitalise on people’s discontent over rising prices and falling living standards within the EU, European green policy, the costs of wars and immigration, etc.

In general, pro-European centrist parties have performed well in Central and Eastern Europe. An exception is the political party of the populist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, FIDESZ, which, although it won the elections, did not do well in the elections despite the extremely high turnout of Hungarians. Similarly, while the general trend in the West has been for the far right to rise, the surprise came from the Netherlands, where, despite a resounding success in last year’s national elections, populist leader Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom only managed to come second to former European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans’ Social Democrats.

In Central and Eastern Europe, centrist, pro-European parties won, but far-right parties came a long way behind

In Poland, the European Union’s largest eastern member, the European parliamentary elections were won by the centrist Civic Coalition of Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a former president of the European Council. His party’s victory comes after an election campaign dominated by security issues amid the threat from Russia.

“We are a beacon of hope for Europe,” Tusk said on election day after the exit polls were announced. 

The Warsaw leader described the situation in France as “a dramatic sadness”, while he said that the people in power in Germany “have no reason to be happy”. Of his own victory, or the choice of Poles, he said it was the result of a choice between “a secure future in a country at the heart of the EU or a dangerous one” if his main opponents from the Law and Justice Party, known to be at odds with Brussels bureaucrats, had won.

In Romania, too, the European parliamentary elections were won by the electoral alliance of the two political parties in the ruling coalition, the PNL and the PSD. They scored a significant 54% of the total Romanian vote. Unfortunately, few Romanians who voted for the PSD-PNL alliance know that the two parties are part of two European parliamentary groups that are totally opposed in doctrine. PSD is part of the S&D group and PNL of the EPP group.  However, the most important electoral performance was had by the conservative, far-right party AUR – Alliance for the Union of Romanians – a party that in 2019, at the previous European elections, did not exist, and on the 9th of June ranked second in the preferences of Romanians, with about 15% but also the SOS Party, an offshoot of AUR, a party founded not long before the elections, which has exceeded the electoral threshold of 5% and will also send a representative to the new European Parliament. According to analysts, the victory of AUR and SOS is also due to the vote of Romanians in the diaspora, who, despite having more polling stations than in the last election, did not turn out to vote even half the number of those who exercised this vote in 2019.

The Hungarian prime minister’s FIDESZ has managed to overtake Peter Magyar’s fledgling TISA party, which campaigned on promises to root out corruption and restore democratic balances that were eroded – critics say – during the country’s long period under Viktor Orban. TISA, however, did very well, finishing only about 10 percent behind FIDESZ in second place. Progressive Slovakia, a liberal, pro-Western opposition party in Slovakia, defeated SMER-SD, the largest party in the left-wing nationalist government led by Prime Minister Robert Fico, who survived an assassination attempt last month. In the Czech Republic, the populist opposition ANO defeated the centre-right Spolu group, which leads the government.

What’s next? ….

Some analysts say it will all depend on the ability of the ultra-conservative right and populists to negotiate in the next European Parliament. But it is to be expected that, after the signal given by Europeans in this election, will come a period of a more tempered climate agenda (and a respite on the Green Deal), tougher migration policies and a review of the discussion of European manufacturing independence, and, in general, a period of economic and politico-cultural conservatism. It could also be a signal that, after offering the Socialists and Liberals to re-establish the current coalition at the head of the Commission in the new Parliament, the EPP candidate for a new term at the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has announced that she is “leaving the door open” for further deals.