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Right-wing parties forecast for gains in 2024 EU elections

January 25, 2024

Right-wing, populist parties are expected to win more seats in the European Parliament in 2024, potentially influencing policies from migration to climate change, according to an ECFR study.

Ursula von der Leyen of the center-right European People's Party (EPP), delivers a speech in front of the European Parliament
The European Parliament elects MEPs every five yearsImage: Jean-Francois Badias/AP Photo/picture alliance

European elections in June will see a "sharp turn to the right," in the European Parliament in continuation of a political trend emerging across Europe, according to a new study released by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). 

The study relied on poling data from the European Union's 27 member states. Although it predicts the parliament's largest grouping, the center-right European People's Party (EPP), will remain the largest, more radical movements are expected to gain ground. 

The report said a "populist right coalition of Christian democrats, conservatives, and radical right MEPs could emerge with a majority for the first time."

"This reflects the long-term decline in support for mainstream parties and the growing support for extremist and smaller parties across Europe, which is resulting in an increasing fragmentation of European party systems, at both the national and European levels," the study said. 

The rise of the populist right

The forecast predicts the radical right Identity and Democracy (ID) group will be a "major winner," with a projected gain of 40 seats to "emerge as the third largest group in the new parliament."

Europeans across the EU's 27 member states of the bloc elect representatives every five years to represent them in the European Parliament. The parliament has several roles, including passing laws and approving budgets, based on European Commission proposals, together with member governments in the EU Council.

Members of Parliament (MEPs) sit in transnational groups based on political ideology and policy positions. 

'"The changes to the political groups and coalitions will have consequences for the EU’s policy agenda and the direction of future EU legislation," the ECFR study said. 

For the traditional European parties of the center-right and the center-left this presents significant challenges. Traditional parties have eschewed forming coalitions with far-right parties, despite their growing popularity at the polls.

For example, all of Germany's major parties categorically reject any cooperation with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), party, despite the AfD emerging as Germany's second strongest party, according to a July 2023 opinion poll

In the Netherlands, far-right populist and eurosceptic Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom won the most seats in the November elections. 

Anti-European populists are likely to top the polls in nine members states, including France and Italy, and come second or third in a further nine countries like Germany, Spain and Sweden, according to the ECFR report. 

Fears of populist surge ahead of 2024 EU elections

What does the rise of the right mean for policy?

The shift to the political right could have significant consequences, particularly for climate change and migration. The report predicted the new political groupings could pursue a "anti-climate policy action" coalition in the Parliament.

"This would significantly undermine the EU's Green Deal framework and the adoption and enforcement of common policies to meet the EU's net zero targets," the study said.

In practical terms, the European Parliament's policy-making powers are very limited anyway, given that its plans need to meet approval from the governments of member states, but the chamber is nevertheless important in the formulation, approval and alteration of plans designed for implementation on the European level.

The report also said that the rise of radical right could mean the weakening of the enforcement of the rule of law and a harder anti-immigration stance.

"Against a backdrop of stirring populism... parties of the political mainstream need to wake up and take clear stock of voter demands, whilst recognizing the need for a more interventionist and powerful Europe on the world stage," wrote Simon Hix, co-author of the report. 

Mainstream parties "should make clear... that it is they, and not those on the political fringes, who are best placed to protect fundamental European rights," he added. 

Edited by: Wesley Rahn 

Roshni Majumdar Roshni is a writer at DW's online breaking news desk and covers stories from around the world.@RoshniMaj