European Parliament elections 2024: far-right parties poised to gain seats

With about a month until the European Parliament elections on June 6–9, 2024, alarming trends have emerged in all 27 EU member states. 

Polls suggest that far-right, eurosceptic, and pro-Russian groups may gain strength in the European Parliament. 

These groups may increase their presence and constitute a powerful political bloc, possibly backed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, with great influence over EU decision-making.

The EU election mechanism 

The elections will determine the composition and orientation of the EU’s main legislative body over the next five years. The parliament will have 720 representatives, an increase of 15 seats from the 2019 elections, reflecting changes in population proportions across member states. 

The “degressive proportionality” principle distributes seats, ensuring that smaller states maintain substantial representation despite having fewer populations than larger countries.

Pro-Russian parties in European countries 

As Europe prepares for the 2024 European Parliament elections, eurosceptic, anti-Western, and pro-Russian voices emerge in light of Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine and the EU’s support for Kyiv.

Here’s a detailed country-by-country analysis of the potential shift towards more pro-Russian representation in the European Parliament:

Germany’s AfD

  • Germany will send 96 MEPs to the EU parliament. The Alternative for Germany (AfD), a far-right party with a pro-Russian stance, has shown a significant presence in previous elections and is expected to maintain or increase its influence. The AfD has historically been critical of EU policies and supportive of closer ties with Russia.

France’s National Rally and Zemmour

  • Despite public denials of such affiliations, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (Rassemblement National, RN), which has 81 MEPs up for election, consistently expresses pro-Russian views in France.
  • The rise of Eric Zemmour’s Reconquest (Reconquête) party, also known for its radical right-wing views (Zemmour once said that France “needs a French Putin”), adds to the mix, potentially increasing the pro-Russian bloc within the European Parliament.

Salvini in Italy

  • Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord in Italy has changed its public stance after 2022, when Putin’s regime launched an all-out war, but it has a history of pro-Russian views, including Salvini’s controversial T-shirt incident featuring Vladimir Putin.
  • Italy will elect 76 MEPs, and Lega’s performance will be pivotal in defining the strength of pro-Russian forces in the Parliament.

The Party for Freedom in the Netherlands 

  • The Netherlands is witnessing a resurgence of the far-right Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV), led by Geert Wilders. With no electoral threshold, the PVV is expected to increase its seat count, further contributing to the pro-Russian contingent in the European Parliament.

Vlaams Belang in Belgium

  • In Belgium, the far-right and pro-Russian Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) is gaining traction. 
  • Belgium will elect 22 MEPs, and Vlaams Belang’s performance could significantly influence the composition of pro-Russian forces.

Austria’s Freedom Party

  • Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ, has long been known for its pro-Russian stance. It is expected to gain more seats, pushing Austria’s contribution to the pro-Russian bloc in the European Parliament.

Viktor Orbán in Hungary

  • Hungary, under Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party, has displayed increasingly pro-Russian sentiments, especially in blocking EU initiatives that conflict with Russian interests. He spoke against sanctions on Russia and against aid for Ukraine.
  • Hungary’s MEPs could play a crucial role in bolstering pro-Russian forces within the European Parliament.

Fico’s Smer-SD in Slovakia

  • Slovakia’s political landscape is complex, with parties like Smer-SD, led by Robert Fico, showing varying degrees of pro-Russian sentiment. The potential for these parties to gain seats in the European Parliament poses a risk of increasing the institution’s pro-Russian faction.

The possibility of diverse pro-Russian and radical right parties forming a unified political group in the European Parliament could shift the balance of power and challenge the traditional pro-European majority. 

This coalition could influence key legislative decisions and potentially obstruct pro-Ukrainian initiatives, marking a significant shift in EU-Russian relations and impacting the EU’s internal dynamics.

As the elections approach, the potential reconfiguration of the European Parliament with a stronger pro-Russian presence underscores the critical nature of these elections in shaping the future political landscape of the European Union.

Russian influence operations

In March and April, Europe was struck by a scandal over the Voice of Europe media platform after the Czech and Belgian authorities revealed that it was involved in a Russian influence operation. This news website produced interviews with far-right MEPs and spread pro-Russian narratives.

A recent study by Insight News has exposed a vast network of news websites across Europe that disseminate pro-Russian narratives. These sites, with varying degrees of bias, range from constantly criticizing Western policies and portraying Ukraine negatively to directly promoting Russian propaganda.

They often favor radical right-wing and eurosceptic parties, especially in the context of the ongoing European Parliament election campaign. The influence of Russian disinformation, which aims to destabilize the European political landscape, raises significant concerns.

In response to the growing threat from the Russian disinformation campaign, top European officials, including French Minister Delegate for Europe Jean-Noël Barrot, German Deputy Minister for European Affairs Anna Lührmann, and Polish Minister for EU Relations Adam Szłapka, convened in the Weimar Triangle format. 

They emphasized the need for enhanced collaborative measures to shield the EU from foreign-led disinformation campaigns, particularly those orchestrated by Russia.

Outlook for the 2024 Elections

As the elections approach, the possibility of a major shift in the dynamics of the European Parliament becomes increasingly apparent. 

The consolidation of radical right-wing and pro-Russian parties may challenge the dominance of more traditional pro-European groupings, such as the EPP, affecting the EU’s future political landscape and attitude on major international issues, such as the Russia-Ukraine war.

The European Union expects this election to be a turning point as it navigates internal conflicts and external pressures, revealing the ongoing struggle between pro-European and eurosceptic, pro-Russian sentiments.

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