Sweeping gains for far-right and Eurosceptic parties could allow a populist right-wing coalition to take control of the European Parliament this year for the first time, a new study finds.
According to the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) thinktank, Eurosceptic populists should top the polls in nine EU countries – including Austria, Belgium, France and the Netherlands – during the 6-9 June European elections. They should also come second or third in a further nine countries.
The far-right surge could allow a coalition of Christian democrats, conservatives and the radical far-right to piece together a majority and steer EU policy for the first time, the study finds.
The new coalition, which would replace the existing grand coalition of centrist groups, is “likely to oppose ambitious EU action to tackle climate change” and slam the brakes on the bloc’s green transition, the report warns.
The European Commission and Council of the EU’s ability to make foreign policy decisions – such as to support Ukraine – could also be undermined as the “national debate” shifts to embrace more Eurosceptic views after the election.
The findings come as far-right forces attempt to capitalise on the discontent of farmers and fishers frustrated by the burden of green policies, who have recently taken to the streets in protest in Germany, France and Romania.
The projected far-right surge also comes despite a mass turnout in anti-far-right protests in Germany, the bloc’s biggest member state. The demonstrations were triggered by reports that figures from the country’s major far-right political force Alternative for Germany (AfD) had met with hardliners to discuss the possible mass deportations of people of foreign origin from Germany.
One of the ECFR report’s co-authors Dr Kevin Cunningham told Euronews that such counter-protests against the far-right are likely to have a “minimal” impact on the ballot.
“It might be the case that the counter-protests themselves merely raise the salience of the issue and the extent to which people support or do not support AfD,” Dr Cunningham explained.
While European Parliament President Roberta Metsola told Euronews last week she had faith mainstream parties could ward off a far-right surge, the report’s authors say the findings should be a “wake-up call” for centrist forces.
“Parties of the political mainstream need to wake up and take stock of voter demands,” Professor Simon Hix, another of the report’s authors, said. “Their campaigns should give reasons for optimism.”
Centre-ground fades, extremes surge
Centrist forces, however, are predicted to lose territory to parties at the political fringes.
The parliament’s far-right group – Identity and Democracy (ID) – is tipped to gain a staggering 40 seats in June’s vote, buoyed by the rising support for Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National in France and Germany’s AfD, as well as the recent electoral victory of Geert Wilder’s Party for Freedom in November’s Dutch elections.
The European Conservatives and Reformists – which includes the likes of Spain’s Vox, Italy’s Brothers of Italy and Poland’s Law and Justice – are also set to gain an impressive 18 seats.
At the other end of the political spectrum, The Left – which includes both communist and Eurosceptic groups – is also predicted to make a modest gain of 6 seats.
While the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) would remain the parliament’s largest group, the mainstream parties at the centre could all see support plummet.
The EPP is projected to lose five seats, the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) ten, while the Liberal Renew Europe group is set to shed 15 seats and lose its ‘king-maker’ role to become the parliament’s fourth biggest group.
If Viktor Orbán’s right-wing Fidesz party – which quit the centre-right EPP group in 2021 – chooses to join the ECR, the two most right-leaning groups could make up over a quarter of the parliament and jointly occupy more seats than either of the mainstream groups.
EU’s green and foreign policies at stake
The authors anticipate that the right-wing coalition could bring about an “anti-climate policy action” to stall the EU’s green transition.
Landmark EU environmental bills, such as the Nature Restoration Law adopted last July, have been passed only by a razor-thin margin in the current parliament due to fierce opposition campaigns by right-leaning groups.
Such contested legislation would be sure to collapse in the projected formation of the new parliament.
The report also predicts that, while the parliament has limited ability to shape the bloc’s foreign policy, the election result could shape the national debate in a way that could prompt some member states to adhere more closely to foreign policy decisions which could, for instance, impact financial and military backing to Ukraine.
There is also a “strong responsibility” of pro-Russia parties being represented in the next parliament, the report says, with pro-Kremlin Bulgarian party Revival on track to win three seats and enter the parliament for the next time.