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European Parliament Elections, Results and More

Cengiz Aktar*

European Parliament (EP) elections have been held every five years since 1979 through direct elections. Before that, representatives from the national parliaments of member states, like the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, participated in EP meetings.

The EP, along with the EU Commission and the main decision-making body, the EU Council, is one of the fundamental institutions of the EU. However, contrary to what the term “parliament” might imply, its legislative role is extremely limited and defined by the other two institutions. This is why the EP elections are not regarded by EU citizens with the same importance as their national parliament elections, and Europeans vote with this understanding, often choosing not to vote at all. Participation rates are consistently low compared to various other elections held across the continent. The June 9, 2024, election did not change this trend, with participation just over fifty percent.

The main criterion for EU citizens who vote is national politics; EU objectives and the future of the EU are always secondary. Or, EU goals are often scapegoated by certain left and right parties. These parties’ candidates are oddly elected to the parliament with anti-EU rhetoric, collect their salaries for five years, seldom visit the assembly, and continuously insult the EU from various platforms.

Looking at the purpose of the elections and the parliament, this poll results in a change in the Commission as well. The new legislature interviews new Commission members like in the USA, and some Commission member candidates may be rejected.

Besides this function, the EP’s most vital role as the sole decision-making body is to approve the trillion-euro EU budget. Legislative proposals it makes are not binding, but joint proposals submitted with the Commission and/or Council can attain the status of law depending on how federal or intergovernmental the subject is.

The EP expresses opinions on all matters concerning the Union but, as mentioned, these opinions are mainly directed at the public and civil society and are not binding.

Contrary to predictions, while far-right forces generally made gains in these elections, the expected groundswell did not occur. In France, the National Rally secured nearly one-third of the votes, solidifying its position as the strongest group in the new parliament. Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy similarly surged, capturing more than a quarter of the votes. Thus, the two groups on the far right of the spectrum in the EP, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID) groups, will have 131 seats in the assembly.

However, this group does not include 15 deputies from Alternative for Germany (AfD), 10 representatives from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party, six members from Poland’s Confederation party, or three members from Bulgaria’s pro-Kremlin Revival party.

If the far right could form a single group, they would be the second-largest force in the parliament after the traditionally dominant European People’s Party (EPP). One characteristic of far-right parties is extreme nationalism; therefore, it is naturally impossible for them to join the same group with other countries’ and often neighboring countries’ far-right parties due to their inherently hate-based nature. In other words, fascists, especially concerning issues related to their own countries, cannot act together with other fascists.

Another result was the collapse of the Greens. The French Greens displayed their worst performance in thirty years, barely making it into the parliament. The German Greens, who came in second in 2019, now find the far-right AfD in second place. Together with the Greens, significant losses for the liberal right will reflect in the workings of the EP. However, the balances in the 2019 parliament and the coalitions during critical votes among the three largest groups, the European People’s Party, the Socialists of Europe, and the liberal Renew Europe, will not change. Ultimately, these three major groups, along with the Greens, are pro-EU, while all other small and large right and left groups and independents are anti-EU.

Turning to what is termed the dynamo of the EU, Germany and France! Presumably, these two countries were the most shaken by the EP elections. In Germany, the steadily rising AfD swept through its birthplace, former East Germany. Looking at the map of Germany, the former West and East Germany are distinctly visible. Unlike West Germany, which has somewhat confronted its genocidal past since 1945, East Germany was freed from this confrontation after reunification. The aftermath of great crimes forgotten due to Stalinist preferences between 1945-1989 is now forcefully resurfacing through the AfD. When we add the unethical response to the Palestinian Genocide, which is starting to dominate the entire country through foreign, Arab, and Muslim hostility, along with climate change denial, a perfect populist policy emerges.

This policy’s twin has emerged in France. Moreover, the country is becoming ungovernable due to colossal mistakes made by Macron, who tries to govern like an “elected king.” The EP elections created an unprecedented shock in France. Macron’s decision to dissolve the National Assembly and call for early elections later this month must also be evaluated in this shock context. Macron’s already exhausted administration needs fresh blood to manage until April 2027. However, the needed solution may not be found within the traditional system parties. The shattered opposition has realized that it has no choice but to present a single left-wing and environmentalist candidate in the first round of parliamentary elections; we’ll see if they can manage it.

In the context of the Palestinian Genocide, apart from Ireland, Spain, and Slovenia, European countries that have suffered a moral bankruptcy seem to reflect this attitude in the EP elections. Populist aberrations shaped in Germany and France stand out with a Crusader-like, Israel-loving, deep and new Western (or Northern) supremacy beyond the well-known far-right tones of foreign, Arab, and Muslim hostility.

Perhaps no EP election has ever been as meaningful as this one.

*Cengiz Aktar is a Turkish political scientist, essayist and columnist. He has published numerous books on the European Union and its relations with Turkey. He was a director at the UNHCR and worked extensively with the European Commission.

*This article was originally published in Birikim Magazine in Turkish and translated into English by Politurco.

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