1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

EU braces for right-wing boost in Parliament

March 6, 2024

Right-wing and far-right parties are expected to gain seats in the European Parliament after the June elections. But they're still a long way from gaining a decisive majority.

A woman hold an EU flag against a blue sky
Polls are expecting the European Parliament to shift further to the right after the election on June 9Image: Pond5 Images/IMAGO

Polls by the US-based political news company Politico have indicated that both  the right-wing populist and the far-right extremist faction in the European Parliament could end up holding even more seats after the upcoming  election in June.          

Its analysis suggested that the Euroskeptic European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group could secure around 76 of the 720 available seats, while the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group could win as many as 84 seats.

That means the ID group, which has a sizeable constituency from Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, could gain 25 more seats than it holds now. The right-wing populist ECR would gain eight additional seats.

Meanwhile, the number of seats for the center-right European People's Party (EPP) and the center-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) is expected to stay roughly unchanged.

The Left group, the Greens and the liberal Renew Europe group are set to exit as the election's big losers.

Big differences

But even taken together, the factions of the ECR and ID group are far from securing major influence and sway. While the think tank European Council on Foreign Relations suggests  that under certain circumstances the ECR and ID might form a coalition, Frank Decker, a professor for political science at the University of Bonn, thinks this is unlikely.

Fears of populist surge ahead of 2024 EU elections

"We are witnessing the right wing gathering strength, but we probably still won't see a united and effective right-wing populist or far-right extremist faction," Decker told DW. He believes the two factions' political agendas are too far apart for that to happen.

'Coalition unlikely'

The vice president of the ID group and deputy leader of the AfD within the European Parliament, Gunnar Beck, has in fact said he would like to see right-wing parties come together to increase their political punch.

"The thought makes sense," he told DW in Brussels. But, he added, "I won't deny that a formal coalition is unlikely at the moment." The two sides' views on Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 were too different to overcome, he explained.

Italy's right-wing populist Lega party and Austria's national-conservative Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) have both criticized the West's harsh line against the Kremlin following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  Poland's right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party and Italy's far-right Brothers of Italy party, meanwhile, have sided unequivocally with Ukraine.

Aside from that, competition between right-wing parties at the national level is likely still too high for parties to unite under one banner. France, Italy and Belgium are just some of the EU member states contending with two right-wing parties sitting in different factions in the European Parliament.

Center parties draw red lines

It's unclear how Europe's right-wing factions might restructure themselves after the vote. There has been speculation that Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni could take her Brothers of Italy party and leave the ECR to join the EPP after the election.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni gesticulates while speaking to the lower Chamber
It's unclear how right-wing factions will restructure themselves after the vote. Italy's Giorgia Meloni might be planning to move her party to the center-right factionImage: Alessandra Tarantino/AP Photo/picture alliance

"We do not know who is forming the ECR after the elections, what groups will leave the ECR and, for example, join the EPP," main candidate for the center-right EPP and chief of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said.

She added that her faction's red line would be a commitment to democracy and the rule of law, the defense of EU values, and support for Ukraine. 

National interests dominate the agenda

The election for the European Parliament is set for June 9. After all the gains and losses of the day are tallied, it's quite possible that the ID group might change its form as well.

For years, French far-right populist Marine Le Pen and her National Front party have strained for a less radical image. They say for instance that they find Germany'sAfD's positions on migration too extreme. Germany's domestic intelligence agency has designated parts of the AfD as far-right extremist and therefore a potential threat to the country's democratic order.

Despite this, the AfD's Gunnar Beck has pointed out that the National Front has shown no intention of leaving the right-wing ID group it shares with the AfD.

"I fully expect our work together to continue. In the past years, our cooperation has deepened quit well," he said. "If you look at the details in our migration agenda, you'll find the National Front and the AfD largely agree."

Decker said he was not surprised to see the right-wing populist and far-right extremist parties in the European Parliament unable to agree.

"First and foremost, these parties uphold a nationalist image. That means that at the European level, they put their respective nation's interests first," he explained. "Tying this in to one common European platform is practically an impossible feat."

Growing insecurities

The growing popularity of national-conservative, right-wing, and far-right parties in Europe has been a steady trend for years. In Hungary and Italy, these kinds of parties are leading the government, in Sweden and Finland, they are part of the government, and in Germany, the AfD is the second-strongest opposition party in the Bundestag.

In the Netherlands, the far-right populist Geert Wilders just won an election but has yet to form a new government. In Austria and France, far-right parties are leading the polls for the European election, while in Germany, theAfD is expected to become the second-strongest party in the election, following the center-right CDU/CSU.

A protest sign reads "Hungary will never be slave in puppet EU"
Euroskepticism is on the rise, as many national governments increasingly include far-right voicesImage: picture alliance/JOKER

Decker explained that in the wake of sheer endless crises — from migration, national debt and financial crises to the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia's war in Ukraine, and climate change — voters felt increasingly insecure and had become susceptible to simplistic right-wing slogans.

Shared identity

Far-right parties in the EU all shared a common narrative in the way they rejected migration, Decker said.

"When it comes to the question of immigration, this is, in essence, a cultural conflict. What is it that keeps our societies together? The right-wing populists say it's our national identity," he explained.

"They only see this condition as fulfilled when societies are culturally or even ethnically homogeneous," Decker added. "But societies change. De-facto, we are an immigration society. And they are trying to negate that."

This article was translated from German.

Bernd Riegert
Bernd Riegert Senior European correspondent in Brussels with a focus on people and politics in the European Union