In whose favour were the odds during the 2024 European Parliamentary elections?

by | Jun 25, 2024

In our previous analysis we tried to make predictions about the 2024 European Parliamentary elections. Now we take the opportunity to check our predictions and also to draw some conclusions, envision a possible future for the European Parliament, taking into consideration the actual results.

In general, we can say that our statement about the 2024 European Parliamentary elections being influenced by “numerous variables and uncertainties” have been found correct. Also, most of the polls we have used to predict results were correct as well in calculating approximate results: the political centre has somewhat weakened and the far-right/extreme parties have grown, but this has not led to a breakthrough or a landslide that would seriously change the course of European politics for the next five years.

Voter turnout

As we have already mentioned in our previous analysis, voter turnout in European Parliamentary elections varied over the years, generally showing a constant decline from the first elections in 1979 until 2014, with a break in this trend in the 2019 elections, which has seen the highest turnout since 1994. We identified new issues with an identifiable genuine connection to European politics being the main reason of this change, namely migration. (2004 saw a 45.47% voter turnout, 2009 produced a 42.97% turnout, 2014 brought 42.61%, 2019 saw 50.66%, a significant raise.) We added that as “the latest parliamentary period has not produced political issues of the same gravity”, the effects pushing voter turnout higher in 2019 will not apply to this year’s EP election, which might mean a lower turnout and even our own poll has shown the relative majority expecting voter turnout being around 50%, and not a significant raise.

The actual voter turnout was 51,08%, which is close to our estimate, and can be seen as keeping the trend.

A képen szöveg, sor, képernyőkép, diagram látható

Automatikusan generált leírás

At the same time, we have to mention that this result is influenced by many unique factors. It is not unusual that some member states organise parallel elections with the EP elections, and these may influence voter turnout, having a positive effect on it. This year’s EP elections were a bit different as this happened in more member states than usual, having a disproportionate or at least odd effect on this number. E.g. the strangely high voter turnout in Cyprus (58,86% compared to 2019’s 44,99%) or in Hungary (59,46% compared to 2019’s 43.36%) is surely the result of the municipal elections held together with the EP elections, drawing more attention from the voters, than usual. At the same time, voter turnout has suffered heavy losses in some other member states (see e.g. in Greece dropping from 58,69% to 41,39%, Lithuania dropping from 53,48% to 28,35% or Spain dropping from 60,73% to 49,21%), making the picture puzzled enough not to be able to draw straight conclusions related to “European” interest in the European Parliamentary elections in every state.

We can conclude that without the parallel municipal elections, the voter turnout would have been slightly lower than in 2019.

This lower turnout will – as indicated in the previous analysis – lead to “business as usual” in the EP. Parties of the centre seemingly try to pull closer together, while smaller parties with more extreme messages gain positions in the periphery, with signs of frictions: see the new AfD-organised group in the European Parliament and the questions and uncertainties around the ECR. These processes continuously happen as we prepare this analysis, so some changes may be expected soon, especially in the actual numbers of seats gained by various groups.

European Parliamentary political groups after the elections

The previous analysis gave an overview of the relevant EP political groups and their situation and probable expectations. Now we take a look at their results and possible future. As the European Parliament will start its operation at the middle of July, the deadline for forming various groups kicks in at the same time, and negotiations should be concluded by then. However, it is not impossible that some deals will be made only later, during the course of the 5-year term, but those deals will probably not be able to influence the structure of the Parliament, or its leadership positions.

Results (based on provisional data available on 25 June 2024):

A képen szöveg, diagram, képernyőkép, kör látható

Automatikusan generált leírás

After the elections, the European People’s Party (EPP) emerged as still the largest political group, gaining 189 seats out of the 720 available. This result made them once again the leading political force in the European Parliament, providing a continuous significant influence over future EU legislative processes. At the same time, the election saw various shifts in political dynamics across Europe, and while the EPP remains the largest group (and dominant force over European right-winged politics), emerging right-wing populist parties made notable gains in more member states, posing threat to its position – even if not taking over this time. Still, the current results ensure that EPP will play a crucial role in forming coalitions and guiding EU policy over the next parliamentary term and have a strong influence over EU top jobs. Their continued leadership is also indicative of the broader political landscape within the EU, where traditional centre-right parties still hold considerable sway despite the rising influence of more extreme political groups on both ends of the spectrum.

On the other hand, the group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) ran up as second, gaining 136 seats, making them still the second-largest group in the European Parliament. Despite suffering significant losses in some member states, they were successful in retaining a significant number of seats, highlighting their strong presence as a major progressive force within the European Parliament, especially in the light of losses of other groups in the same part of the spectrum.

A major change brought by this year’s elections is the fact that the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group has made notable gains, securing 83 seats, making it currently the third-largest group in the European Parliament. This result demonstrates a shift towards more conservative and Eurosceptic sentiments among European voters. ECR’s increased representation will likely influence the balance of power and policy directions within the European Parliament, particularly in debates concerning EU reforms, migration, and economic policies. Nonetheless, the current situation of ECR can be seen as somewhat “unfinished” as there are still ongoing political processes which may have an effect on this group.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party and their Renew Europe group has secured 74 seats, making it the fourth-largest group in the European Parliament, which represents a slight decrease in their influence compared to previous elections. Still, this slight loss does not make the group irrelevant: they still play a crucial role in forming coalitions within the European Parliament, making deals with other centrist parties related to EU top jobs and to influence legislation and EU policies in the future.

The Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) group experienced significant losses during the 2024 elections. They went from 74 seats (2019 elections results) to 53 seats in 2024, losing 21 seats overall. The results were particularly poor in countries like Germany, France, Belgium, and Italy, where they faced tough competition from right-wing parties and struggled with issues like inflation and the housing crisis. These losses will surely mark a challenging period for the Greens/EFA, impacting their ability to influence environmental policies at the EU level.

The Identity and Democracy Group (ID) secured 58 MEPs. This far-right political grouping, led by Italian MEP Matteo Salvini, will probably go through major changes because of inner turmoils and outside political processes. As the majority of its members come from the Italian Lega party and Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (National Rally) of France, the latter will probably be more interested in the upcoming French parliamentary elections, while the group itself will be under some pressure by the newly created far-right parliamentary group, allegedly named “The Sovereignists”, led by Germany’s AfD, recently removed from the ID group.

New groups and political effects within member states?

Every election is a good time for re-thinking political strategies. One visible sign of this is the creation of or the attempts to create new groups. As indicated in the previous analysis, the importance of belonging to a political group is given by the fact that this is somewhat the “entry to relevance” in the work of MEPs: key positions within the European Parliament’s structures are allocated to the groups, and groups are entitled to higher funding that makes it possible to employ more staff and finance parliamentary activities. As a result of this, forming a parliamentary group has become of strategic importance for those political forces who seriously wish to influence legislation – and logically, these political groups in the European Parliament usually correlate with existing European political parties. Additionally, they can also include members from other national parties or independent politicians on an ad hoc basis. To form such a political group, some specific requirements have to be met: at least 25 MEPs are needed who shall be elected from at least one quarter of the EU member states (currently meaning at least seven different member states).

The 2024 elections did not bring significant changes that would lead to movement of MEPs to seriously challenge the structure of the current groups, but there are some processes worth registering.

As mentioned earlier, a new extreme-right wing group is being organised, allegedly named “The Sovereignists”. This may pose challenges both for the ID and ECR. At the same time, the strengthening of AfD within Germany may give additional momentum to it, drawing its attention away from the European political theatre.

The same may happen to France’s “Rassemblement National”, led by Marine Le Pen, whose new relative strength may require to be focused on governing France in the near future. Or at least that is what the high-stakes bluff of President Macron may require: dissolving the French Parliament (Assemblée nationale) and ordering new elections (which might be seen by many as a panic-act) will probably require Le Pen and her people to re-locate resources and political attention to governmental duties. Obviously, President Macron is willing to engage in a politically uncomfortable “cohabitation” (meaning that under the French semi-presidential system, the president and the prime minister come from opposing political parties. Modern French politics has seen those three times: from 1986 to 1988 when socialist president François Mitterrand had conservative Jacques Chirac as prime minister; from 1993 to 1995, during Mitterrand’s second term with conservative Edouard Balladur as prime minister; and between 1997 and 2002, when president Chirac had to cooperate with the socialist Lionel Jospin as prime minister.) obviously to try to weaken Le Pen before the next presidential elections.

On the European right wing, Viktor Orbán of Hungary may still cause some disturbance with his manoeuvring. Ever since his Fidesz party lost its position within the EPP group, he has been communicating about the need of creating a “new” or “real” right-wing political party in Europe. This has apparently not really been taken seriously by anyone so far, and the first tectonic moves in the European political right do not seem to give him possibilities: the ECR rejected his advances, the ID and the new “Sovereignists” are too extreme for his ambitions, not to mention his pro-Russian position which seems to be problematic for many political actors even there. But the removal of ANO (from the Czech Republic, the party of Andrej Babiš, a long-time ally of Orbán) from ALDE/Renew with its 7 MEPs opens up a new chance. A new ally of Orbán, Robert Fico, the current Prime Minister of Slovakia, namely a social democrat, leading the party Smer is currently suspended from the S&D, meaning that leaving it with 3 MEPs is not an impossible option. If You add those together with the 11 MEPs of Fidesz, You end up with 21 MEPs – meaning that You still need 1 single MEP from 4 other EU member states to be able to form a new group. Far from being impossible under any circumstances…

Conclusion

Our previous analysis concluded that “even if the earth is going to shake a bit, the buildings of the European political castle will stand firm and no serious change is to be expected”. We stand by this statement, and the results have validated that well.

The peripheries are shaking, but the building stands firm. The odds are seemingly in the favour of solid structures, the winds of change do not demolish castles.

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