In a year from now, from 6 through 9 June 2024, EU citizens will cast their votes in the European Elections. Voters will determine the new distribution of seats (and power) in European Parliament and thus indirectly on the EU’s priorities until 2029. Political landscapes in the member states are continuously shifting, which makes the outcome of next years’ elections rather uncertain. Different from 2019 however are growing exogenous shocks the EU is facing, which increasingly influences policy decisions. Think of measures against the usage of Russian gas in the RePowerEU legislation as result of the crisis in Ukraine, migration at the borders of Europe in the Migration Pact, US protectionist legislation, but also the focus on Open Strategic Autonomy, to counter position the EU against China.
In this blog, colleagues Valérie Mendes de León and Teeuwes Middelbrink look at trends in EU member states and how these could impact the elections and the composition of the 716 seats in Parliament, and subsequently of a new College of Commissioners.
Political landscape on a national level
Where the 2019 elections saw a mild upheaval of social democratic movement, the upcoming are set to take place against the backdrop of a continuing rise in right-wing political parties across the EU. This trend, observed in countries such as the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Estonia, Bulgaria, Greece, and most recently the regional elections in Spain, is poised to have a far-reaching influence for the political parties in the European Parliament, the structure of the Parliament itself, and the prioritization of the political agenda. As a result, a shift in votes from centrist parties to anti-establishment parties (mostly represented in ECR and I&D groups) is expected. This trend is accompanied by a surge of votes on ends of the party spectrum, leading to a small increase in votes on the left side as well (The Left).
A development occurring at member state level where center parties have to make way for more right-winged and left-winged parties is also predicted at the EU-level. Based on opinion polls, EUMatrix recently predicted a drop in votes for the European People’s Party (EPP), the liberal Renew Group and the Socialists & Democrats. For now, they predict a majority among these three more centrist parties can still be found, but the increase of seats among the Rights cannot be ignored.
This predicted increase of votes among anti-establishment parties, often characterized by Eurosceptic or nationalist stances, challenges the traditional balance of power. This surge will likely result in a more fragmented political landscape, making coalition-building and consensus challenging.
Established centrist parties may face increased competition and pressure to adapt their policies and messaging to resonate with the concerns and aspirations of the electorate. Conversely, left-wing and progressive parties may find themselves more isolated as right-wing forces gain momentum. As a consequence, political polarization and ideological divisions within the Parliament may become more pronounced, requiring parties to navigate a complex web of alliances and compromises.
Influence on EU the Political Agenda
The ascent of anti-establishment governments in the EU is likely to influence the political agenda of the European Parliament. Issues related to immigration, national sovereignty, security, and economic protectionism are expected to gain prominence, reflecting the policy priorities of right-wing parties. In addition, a more market-oriented approach can be expected on topics such as industrial policy, green energy and climate policy. Discussions around EU integration and the balance between national and supranational decision-making are also likely to be heightened, as Eurosceptic forces might advocate for a more intergovernmental approach.
Up to 2024
As the European Parliament elections of 2024 approach, it becomes clear that the political landscape is shifting, with a significant rise in right-wing governments across the European Union. This trend will have a profound influence on the elections, the composition of the Parliament, and the prioritization of the political agenda. The elections also present opportunities to put new topics on the agenda of MEPs.
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