A four-day election has shaken the foundations of the European Union, with the far right rocking ruling parties in France and Germany, the bloc’s traditional driving forces. For the next five years it will be harder for the European Parliament to make decisions.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats also suffered as the extreme-right Alternative for Germany shrugged off scandals to make massive gains.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni speaks about the results of the European Parliamentary elections at a press conference at the Fratelli d’Italia party electoral committee in Rome, Monday, June 10, 2024. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)

In Italy, the party of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, which has neo-fascist roots, won more than 28% of the national vote for the EU assembly, which would make it a key player in forming future alliances.

Green and pro-business liberal groups across Europe suffered heavy defeats, but mainstream formations held their ground, with the center-right European People’s Party remaining the biggest bloc in the 27-nation EU’s assembly.

Political earthquake in France

Voters in France will return to the polls in just three weeks after Macron dissolved parliament and called snap national elections.

Le Pen’s anti-immigration, nationalist party was estimated to get about 31-32 per cent of the vote.

While a National Rally win was expected, the scale of the victory was a surprise, more than doubling the share of Macron’s Renaissance party, which was projected to reach around 15 per cent.

It should become clear by mid-July whether a weakened Macron will be forced to work with a far-right government in an uncomfortable “cohabitation”.

Supporters of French far-right National Rally react at the party election night headquarters, Sunday, June 9, 2024 in Paris. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

Scandals do little to harm Germany’s hard right

Scholz’s ruling Social Democrats recorded their worst post-World War II result in a nationwide vote, with 13.9 per cent.

Alternative for Germany finished second with around 15.9 per cent. The far-right party suffered a string of recent setbacks, including scandals surrounding its two lead candidates in the EU parliament elections.

But voters appear to have shrugged them off. The result is better than the AfD’s 11 per cent in 2019 but still short of poll ratings earlier this year.

Germany’s opposition centre-right Union bloc took 30 per cent of the vote.

A damaged election poster shows German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Frankfurt, Germany, Monday, June 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The pro-European centre holds

The centre-right European People’s Party is projected to win 191 seats in the EU assembly and remains by far the biggest group.

The EPP garnered a few more seats, but the parliament is also expanding from 705 seats in 2019 to 720 seats this year, so the increase was marginal.

The second-biggest bloc, the centre-left Socialists and Democrats, lost some ground but with 135 seats comfortably retains its place.

EPP lead candidate Ursula von der Leyen had flirted with parties to the right during election campaigning, but after early results were announced she called on the socialists and pro-business liberals to work together in a pro-European alliance.

Empty envelopes of postal ballots for the European elections lie on the floor in a hall of the fair sound in Frankfurt, Germany, Sunday, June 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Greens and liberals take a hit

The environmentalist Greens were perhaps the biggest losers overall.

They are likely to lose about 20 seats in the EU parliament, almost a third of their tally from 2019.

A series of protests across Europe by farmers angered at the burden imposed by new climate laws helped to damage their chances.

The EU considers itself a world leader in combating global warming. Senior members had hoped that Greens parties already in government in places like Germany would hold their ground.

But projections suggested that Germany’s Greens, the second-biggest party in Scholz’s coalition, would fall from a peak of 20.5 per cent five years ago to about 12 per cent.

Liberal parties across Europe, including Macron’s, were also expected to give away a combined 20 seats in the assembly, making them the other biggest losers in this election.

Senior party officials and number-crunchers were meeting on Monday to work out what kind of groups and alliances might be formed in the parliament for the next five years.

Party presidents will hold their first formal talks on Tuesday.

One thing is clear: The results will slow decision-making and the passing of legislation on issues ranging from climate change to farm subsidies.

EU presidents and prime ministers will hold a summit on June 17 to take stock of the results.

They will also discuss whether to return von der Leyen to the helm of the EU’s powerful executive branch, the European Commission.

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