Europe Votes: Far-right Parties Surge in EU Parliament Elections

A voter wearing a traditional Bavarian costume casts his ballot for the European Parliament Elections at a polling station in Huglfing, southern Germany, on June 9, 2024. (Photo by Michaela STACHE / AFP)

Citizens across Europe took to the polls on Sunday in what marked the final – and most significant – day of elections for the European Union’s parliament.

With far-right parties poised to make gains during a critical juncture for the bloc, voters in 21 member countries, including France and Germany, participated in shaping the EU’s trajectory for the next half-decade.

Describing the elections as pivotal, Kostas Karagiannis emphasized the need for the European Parliament to assert its rightful authority as he exited a polling station in Athens.

The backdrop of the continent amidst Russia’s actions in Ukraine, global trade tensions influenced by US-China relations, environmental crises, and the looming possibility of a Donald Trump presidency has heightened the importance of this vote.

While over 360 million individuals were eligible to vote across the EU’s 27 nations during the election period that commenced on Thursday, voter turnout is expected to be a fraction of the overall electorate.

The outcome of the elections will shape the composition of the EU’s forthcoming parliament, which in turn determines the leadership of the influential European Commission. Ursula von der Leyen, a German conservative, is contending for a second term in this leadership role.

Although conventional centrist parties are projected to maintain the majority of the 720 seats in the incoming European Parliament, forecasts indicate that their influence may wane in the face of a surging far-right movement pushing the EU’s agenda towards ultraconservatism.

Initial results are anticipated to be revealed on Sunday evening.

Amid concerns over rising living costs and apprehensions about immigration’s societal implications, many voters are increasingly swayed by populist narratives.

Hungarian voter Ferenc Hamori voiced a desire for EU leadership akin to his country’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, even if he acknowledged Orban’s position might be in the minority in Brussels.

In regions close to Russia, the perceived threat posed by Moscow loomed large in voters’ minds.

Expressing his preference for enhanced security measures, 51-year-old doctor Andrzej Zmiejewski cast his vote in the capital city of Warsaw, Poland.