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‘The center is holding,’ von der Leyen declares despite far-right gains

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Preliminary results for the European Parliament elections show that centrist parties have retained the majority despite a growth of support for far-right groups, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said as polls closed across Europe on June 9.

Between June 6 and 9, European Union member states held elections for the bloc’s 720-member European Parliament. Members of the European Parliament (MEP) shape and approve legislation and also approve candidates for the European Commission.

Exit polls project that the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), which von der Leyen represents, will remain the largest political faction in the new parliament, with 189 seats.

Right-wing parties made significant gains in the election, with the conservative-nationalist European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) projected to take 72 seats.

The far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group is projected to win 58, and strong results were celebrated by various non-inscrit right-wing and far-right parties like the Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Netherlands’ PVV, or Hungary’s Fidesz.

“We won the European elections,” von der Leyen told reporters on June 9.

“This election has given us two messages. First, there remains a majority in the center for a strong Europe, and that is crucial for stability. In other words, the center is holding.”

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Von der Leyen also acknowledged that more extremist parties had made substantial gains. Right-wing factions secured victories in key races in Italy, France, and Belgium, among other countries.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s party, Brothers of Italy (FdI), appears to have won the most votes in Italy’s European Parliament elections. The FdI belongs to the conservative-national ECR.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron announced snap parliamentary elections after Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Rally party won a resounding victory in the French vote.

Germany’s ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) is projected to come in third with around 14%, a drop of more than 10 points from the German parliamentary elections in 2021.

German elections were dominated by two opposition parties: the center-right CDU/CSU with around 30% and the far-right AfD, projected to win around 15.6% and gain an additional six seats in the European Parliament when compared to 2019.

The AfD was kicked out from the ID group shortly before the elections after a series of scandals that included its candidates being accused of receiving money from Russia.

Belgium Prime Minister Alexander de Croo also announced his resignation after right-wing parties defeated the liberals in both the European Parliament vote and Belgium’s federal elections.

Von der Leyen said she wants to continue to cooperate with “those who are pro-European, pro-Ukraine, pro-rule of law.”

“The world around us is in turmoil,” she said.

“Forces from the outside and from the inside are trying to destabilize our societies, and they are trying to weaken Europe. We will never let that happen.”

Why European elections matter for Ukraine

Starting on June 6, citizens of the European Union will head to the voting booths to elect the bloc’s 720-member European Parliament. The election, held between June 6 and June 9 and often downplayed as irrelevant by voters, will have a major impact on EU domestic and foreign policy, among

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