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What to Expect from the 2024 European Parliament Elections

, by Catherine De Vries
According to recent projections, the European Union will go through a transition that we have witnessed in many Member States over the past decade: the shrinking of the political center and the rise of the political extremes

Between 6 and 9 June 2024, voters across the European Union will elect a new European Parliament. The future of the European Union looks fragile. Mounting tensions on the global stage, for which the EU’s foreign policy is ill-equipped, coupled with an increasing backlash against climate policy and weakening economic foundations, are fueling political polarization within Member States. This polarization has already affected the domestic politics of many Member States. 

Electoral volatility has risen over the past decades and mainstream political forces that used to dominate the political scene – conservatives, liberals and social democrats – are in decline. At the same time, populist forces that criticize political elites at home and in Brussels are on the rise. 

These developments will also likely affect the composition of the European Parliament this year. Indeed, recent projections of the outcome of the European Parliament elections suggest that the grand coalition comprising social democrats (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, S&D), Christian democrats/center-right (European People’s Party, EPP), and liberals (Renew Europe, RE) will weaken, and that populist and radical right party groups, namely the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID), will gain power.  

Although polling the outcome of European Parliament elections is notoriously difficult, not in the least because turnout is usually very low, current predictions suggest a sea change in European politics. 

In fact, should the ECR and ID form a single parliamentary bloc, they could become the largest group, commanding about a quarter of the 720 seats. While populist and radical right party groupings will likely gain seats, they do not work together easily. Not only is the block split in two party groupings, the nationalist stances of these parties put their interests at odds with each other. What is more, the legislative activity of populist and radical right members of the European Parliament has been weak in past parliamentary sessions.  

Notwithstanding the uncertainty about the outcome, the possible gains for populist and radical right party groupings indicate a rocky road ahead for European policymakers, both in the short and longer term.  

In the short term, the new composition of the Parliament impacts the election of the Commission President and their team. This raises the question of who might be able to garner enough support in the new Parliament. Will it be former President Ursula von der Leyen, who will have to make concessions to the right to get re-elected, or someone entirely different?  

In the longer term, the projected shift to the right might change the coalition needed to follow the current policy trajectory in the EU.  

The rise of political extremes  

A larger share of populist and radical right members of parliament and the potential associated shift to the right of the European People’s Party raises concerns about the future of decarbonization and de-risking of the European continent. Will the new Parliament aim to water down the Green Deal or scale down support for Ukraine? These are questions that will now arise.  

In this way, the European Union will go through a transition that we have witnessed in many Member States over the past decade: the shrinking of the political center and the rise of the political extremes.  

This development will make crafting effective policy solutions to tackle the EU’s persistent challenges more difficult. The risk may not only be a shift in policy but also a general political stalemate and gridlock within and between the EU’s institutions.  

Since the bad precedent that Brexit set, many populist and radical right parties no longer want to leave the European Union, but rather they want to change the project from within and move it into a more sovereigntist direction.  

After the upcoming European Parliament elections, we might see the extent to which these parties are really able to do that. Only time will tell. 


Catherine de Vries co-authored the recent report The von der Leyen Effect: Does Visibility Lead to Accountability? 


Bocconi University
Department of Social and Political Sciences

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