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European elections: key takeaways

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Voters across the European Union’s 27 member states issued a stern warning to mainstream political forces, wreaking havoc on French politics and, to a lesser extent, German politics, while also bringing benefits to hard-line nationalist parties in some countries.

Even so, the far-right wave that European politicians feared has not fully materialized; the center of EU politics remains solid.

Here are the most important trends emerging from the election.

The mainstream center-right European People’s Party performed strongly and came in first place, not only maintaining its dominance in the European Parliament but also gaining some seats, suggesting that its strategy over the past two years of incorporating more right-wing policies to prevent voters from switching to its more right-wing rivals has paid off.

Over the past five years, the political group has led the Green Deal, one of the world’s most ambitious climate change policies; dilute Some policies adopted at EU level take into account the pressure from important rural constituencies. It also leads Significant tightening The move went some way to allaying the concerns of voters who wanted a swift halt to irregular immigration.

The conservatives lost ground to a sensational performance by Marine Le Pen’s ultra-nationalist National Rally, which received twice as much support as President Emmanuel Macron’s Ennahda party, prompting him to dissolve the National Assembly. Calls for early legislative elections.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD), an ultra-nationalist party, has been designated as “suspicious” Extremist groups The conservatives, backed by Germany’s establishment, surged into second place in opinion polls, though well behind the winners, the Conservatives, who defeated the Social Democrats, led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, further weakening him as he continues to struggle in a shaky coalition.

The strong performance of the center-right was not replicated in the other two centrist parties in the European Parliament. The Alliance of Socialists and Democrats for Progress, traditionally the second-largest force in the parliament, maintained its strength and more or less kept its number of seats. But the Liberals suffered a heavy defeat, weakening the informal pro-EU centrist alliance that, despite their differences, is usually the basis for passing legislation in the European Parliament.

Together, the three parties will control more than 400 seats in the new parliament, which will take office on July 16. This seems a fairly safe majority, but sometimes the voting discipline of political groups can be weak, and tactical alliances may need to be formed at a later stage to ensure the passage of laws. The new, weaker parliamentary majority will face its first test with the confirmation of the President of the European Commission (the EU’s top official), which is scheduled for July 18.

From a policy perspective, the resilience of centrist states in the election will translate into some continuity, especially in maintaining EU support for Ukraine.

The Greens were the biggest losers of the night: despite performing well in 2019 and becoming a significant progressive force in parliament, they lost a quarter of their seats in the new election.

This was largely predictable: voters abandoned the Green Party for two main reasons. Green voters found that the Green Party’s agenda was largely absorbed into the other larger mainstream parties. In a way, the Green Party had lost its unique selling point.

But other voters believe Europe’s green agenda has gone too far, hurting farmers and wider rural voters.

Even so, despite the loss of seats, the Greens are likely to remain a backup force for the three centrists.

Before the election, the Conservatives floated the idea of ​​wooing the European Conservatives and Reform Party, another right-wing grouping led by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meroni. That was a big no-no for the Conservatives’ other centrist allies, especially those who see the group as a political rival to the party. Ms. Meloni plays a radical in mainstream clothing.

With the centrist majority in place, the need to turn to Ms. Meroni and the MEPs she controls now appears to have largely disappeared. While the Conservatives may still need to work tactically with that group in parliament, it seems unlikely that they will need to rely on them.

Nonetheless, Ms. Meroni remains an important leader in an EU member state who has enormous influence, shapes the political landscape, and has pushed many policies to her own. Unlike other major EU leaders, she has performed very well domestically, reaffirming her dominance.

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