European Elections: Far-Right Parties Gain Ground, Challenging the Mainstream

Far-Right Victory in European Elections: What It Means for the Future

by Faruk Imamovic
European Elections: Far-Right Parties Gain Ground, Challenging the Mainstream
© Getty Images/Sean Gallup

The European political landscape is poised for a significant shift as far-right parties are predicted to win a record number of seats in the European Parliament. This unprecedented outcome, if confirmed, would deliver a stark message to Brussels' political mainstream and introduce a wave of uncertainty regarding Europe’s future direction.

After three days of voting across the European Union’s 27 member states, exit polls indicate that far-right parties are set to win approximately 150 out of the 720 seats in the European Parliament. Such a result would make it considerably more challenging for mainstream parties to form the majorities necessary to pass legislation.

A Call for Stability Amid Rising Extremism

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addressed the situation in a speech late Sunday, emphasizing that her European People’s Party (EPP), which is predicted to secure the most seats, can still serve as an "anchor of stability." However, she urged her political allies to unite against the surge of extremist parties.

"The center is holding," von der Leyen stated. "But it is also true that the extremes on the left and on the right have gained support, and this is why the result comes with great responsibility for the parties in the center." 

The final results will continue to emerge on Monday, at which point the process of coalition-building will commence. Europe’s centrists will need to set aside their differences to counter the rising far-right influence.

National Shifts and Far-Right Gains

Most of the far-right gains are concentrated in major EU member states such as France, Italy, and Germany. The election results reflect significant domestic shifts that could have long-term implications.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron faced a severe setback as exit polls revealed that Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) party is expected to outperform his candidates significantly. In response, Macron dissolved the parliament and called for a snap election, with the first round scheduled for June 30. The French Interior Ministry's official results on Monday showed RN winning 36.8% of the vote, followed by Macron’s pro-European list at 14.6%, and the center-left Socialist Party at 13.8%.

Celebrating the victory at the RN headquarters, party leader Jordan Bardella declared, "The unprecedented defeat for the current government marks the end of a cycle, and Day 1 of the post-Macron era."

Similarly, in Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats (SD) suffered a historic loss, securing only 14% of the vote. The mainstream Christian Democrats Party (CDU) came out on top with 29.5%, while the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) captured 16.5% of the vote.

EU Elections
EU Elections© Getty Images/Johannes Simon

Implications for Europe’s Political Future

These results will shape the EU's political direction for the next five years, but they also serve as a de facto referendum on the incumbent domestic governments. The outcomes could spell trouble for Macron in France’s 2027 presidential election and for Scholz in Germany’s federal elections next year.

Europe has undergone significant changes since the last parliamentary elections in 2019. The UK's departure from the bloc in 2020 and Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 have placed much of the continent on high alert. This has required the EU to send essential supplies to Kyiv and bolster its defenses.

"Of course, this election does not take place in a vacuum. The world around us is in turmoil. Forces from the outside and from the inside are trying to destabilize our societies, and they are trying to weaken Europe. We will never let that happen. These election results show that the majority of Europeans want a strong Europe," von der Leyen commented.

Challenges and Divisions Within the Far-Right

Despite their gains, far-right parties remain divided. The AfD, for instance, was removed from the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) party after its main European candidate, Maximilian Krah, made controversial remarks about the Nazi group the SS. Several other far-right parties are part of the non-aligned (NI) group, which is expected to secure 45 seats.

Responding to the exit poll, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola emphasized the need for Brussels’ political establishment to "understand how people voted" and make decisions that "have an impact on citizens’ daily lives."

"We can see that the constructive, pro-European center has held," Metsola said, but she stressed the importance of unity among centrist groups to form a majority.

Looking Ahead

As Europe grapples with the implications of these election results, the coming days and weeks will be critical. The process of forming coalitions and the strategies adopted by mainstream parties will determine the EU's ability to navigate this new political landscape. The rise of far-right parties marks a significant shift, challenging the established order and pushing Europe into uncharted territory.