Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Here’s what we learned from the European parliamentary elections | CNN

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Results are being announced in the European parliamentary elections – one of the world’s biggest democratic exercises – and a few clear narratives have emerged from the days-long poll.

Far-right parties across the continent had strong showings, but their momentum did not cause the center ground of European politics to cave in – as many had predicted.

Instead, liberal and Green groups lost seats and relevance in the European Parliament.

Meanwhile, domestic politics was upended in some countries, including France – where new elections were announced.

Here’s what you need to know.

Ahead of the vote, eyes across Europe were fixed mainly on the continent’s far-right parties – with gains by those groups expected to form a major part of Sunday’s narrative.

Those gains did materialize; far-right groups were expected to secure a record number of seats in the European Parliament, dealing a major blow to the continent’s establishment leaders.

Far-right parties were set to win around 150 of the parliament’s 720 seats, an exit poll projected, potentially frustrating efforts by mainstream parties to form majorities needed to pass laws.

Most of the far-right gains were concentrated in countries that elect large numbers of seats: France, Italy and Germany.

But the parties must still work to build a consensus if they are to maximize their political threat.

Germany’s AfD is politically homeless: it was removed from the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) party after its main European candidate, Maximilian Krah, said he did not consider all members of the Nazi group, the SS, to be criminals.

Several other far-right parties are among the non-aligned (NI) group, predicted to secure 45 seats.

Despite a far-right surge, the centrist European People’s Party (EPP) was the biggest single winner on Sunday night.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a speech late on Sunday that the group – predicted to secure the most seats – could still act as an “anchor of stability.”

But she called on her political allies to help guard against extremist parties.

“The center is holding. But it is also true that the extremes on the left and on the right have gained support, and this is why the result comes with great responsibility for the parties in the center,” she told an audience in Brussels.

Von der Leyen appeared to rule out any possibility of the party banding together with the far-right factions, telling journalists that she will be reaching out to The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and centrist and liberal Renew Europe to form a “broad majority for a strong Europe.”

Von der Leyen, who is seeking a second term as European Commission president, outlined her desire to keep pushing on with parties who are “pro-European, pro-Ukraine, pro-rule-of-law.”

The results massively disrupted politics in several European countries, as gains from previously fringe groups became impossible for some leaders to ignore.

French President Emmanuel Macron called a stunning snap election on Sunday after his party was trounced by Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN).

“I have decided to give you back the choice of your parliamentary future by voting. I am therefore dissolving the National Assembly this evening,” Macron said. The elections to pick a new parliament will take place on 30 June and 7 July.

France’s main far-right electoral lists in the European Elections took more than one in three votes cast, according to official results from the French Interior Ministry Monday. France returns – the European elections list for Marine Le Pen’s RN party – and the list headed by her niece Marion Maréchal won 36.83% of votes cast, more than the next three parties combined.

In a celebratory speech at the RN headquarters before Macron’s shock announcement, party leader Jordan Bardella said the “unprecedented defeat for the current government marks the end of a cycle, and Day 1 of the post-Macron era.”

Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo meanwhile resigned after his party suffered a disastrous defeat in national and European parliamentary elections.

The 48-year-old politician struggled to hold back his tears when announcing the decision on Sunday evening in Brussels. “I was the figurehead of this campaign. This is not the result I had hoped for, and I, therefore, take responsibility for this result. It was not meant to be,” De Croo told journalists.

Meloni and Tusk have good nights

Few major EU leaders enjoyed results night, but Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni saw her party make gains, and ended the process as a major player in European politics.

Her domestic party, Brothers of Italy, was the most rightwing to be elected to government in Italy since that of Benito Mussolini, the wartime fascist leader.

But Meloni has proven a pragmatic figure in Europe, becoming an ally of von der Leyen, and a staunch supporter of Ukraine, while pushing the bloc to take a firmer stance on migration.

Those efforts could accelerate after Brothers of Italy won the country’s vote.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s efforts to make Poland a force in Brussels were boosted after his party held off the populist opposition Law and Justice (PiS) group to secure an outright victory.

Tusk has rebuilt Warsaw’s reputation at the European table after defeating PiS in a national election last October. The former European Council President made reintegration with Europe a key pillar of his campaign and his time in office, while the strategic significance of Poland to the bloc has increased following Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Brussels’ mainstream leaders will also be relieved that Hungary’s authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, for so long a thorn in the EU’s side, was dealt a blow on Sunday.

His party Fidesz suffered its worst European election results to date, ceding ground to its center-right opponents.

As fringe parties on the right made gains, left-wing groups, and in particular the Greens, were squeezed across Europe.

Early results showed that Green support in France and Germany suffered especially huge drops in seats.

“The losses in Germany and France are obviously a blow,” Bas Eickhout, the Greens/EFA vice-president and lead candidate of the European Green Party, admitted in a statement as results came in.

The group insisted they would work to push the new parliament to prioritize work on the climate, but their standing is severely diminished and it remains to be seen how much Europe’s leaders will need to rely on their support.

The European Commission announced one of the world’s most ambitious goals to slash planet-heating pollution in February, but faces opposition in rural areas around the continent, with farmers’ unions saying the plans represent a threat to their livelihoods.

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