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Exclusive Euronews poll projects pro-EU grand coalition straining, but still alive

Exclusive Euronews poll projects pro-EU grand coalition straining, but still alive

Support for the far-right is likely to rise in the next European Parliament, but pro-European parties will still hold 63% of the seats, according to a poll carried out by Ipsos for Euronews, published today (19 March).

The exclusive survey – of nearly 26,000 people, in countries representing 96% of the EU population – is the first of its kind in the run-up to landmark elections due in June.

The predicted results won’t change the fundamental calculus of the European Parliament, where centrists will continue to muster the majority needed to confirm officials and pass legislation, the polling suggests.

Yet parties from the radical and eurosceptic right could see significant gains, topping the polls in four of the EU’s six founding members – while uncertainties over party affiliation suggest there’s plenty left to play for.

With nearly 400 million eligible to vote, the elections to be held from 6-9 June 2024 to appoint 720 MEPs will be one of the world’s largest democratic exercises.

Despite five turbulent years during which Europe faced the pandemic, soaring prices and a full-scale war, Ipsos predicts remarkably little change in the fortunes of the EU’s two dominant political parties.

Pro-Europeans continue to muster a majority

The number of MEPs held by the centre-right EPP and left-wing Socialists are set to change by only few percent from their position today, according to the survey.

In third place will come a weakened Renew Europe, Emmanuel Macron’s liberal coalition – while the ascendant radical right-wing ID and eurosceptic ECR groups will plunge the Green party into sixth place, the poll said.

One of the first key duties of the next European Parliament will be to approve the President of the European Commission.

As such, the results spell good news for incumbent Ursula von der Leyen, whose EPP group seems set to top the poll with ease, securing 177 of 720 MEPs.

She could then secure the majority she needs with the support of two other major pro-European parties, including the Socialists and either Greens or Liberals, the results suggest.

But those numbers don’t tell the whole story, Fabian Zuleeg of the European Policy Centre told Euronews in an interview — as in practice parties and countries don’t always stay loyal in votes that are cobbled together on individual policy issues.

“It will become much more difficult to construct majorities in the parliament” if the centre is weakened, said Zuleeg, who is Chief Executive of the Brussels-based think tank – particularly on controversial issues.

That could lead to the European Commission depending more on non-legislative instruments like spending programmes or standard-setting, he added.

Rise of the radical right

With 30 extra seats projected between ID and ECR, the far-right would enjoy more of a rise than a surge – but that includes support in countries often seen as the most fervently pro-European.

National Rally, the French party led by Marine Le Pen, is predicted to gain ten extra seats, becoming the largest party in the European Parliament alongside Germany’s CDU/CSU.

The Netherlands’ Geert Wilders – the surprise winner of November 2023 national elections – will capture nine.

Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party is projected to take 24 of Italy's 76 seats, while In Belgium, two right-wing parties, Flemish Interest and the NVA, will take three apiece. Germany’s AfD party is projected to have 15 MEPs, putting it in joint third place nationally.

Those successes could have consequences for European policymaking, academic Cas Mudde told Euronews, with a tougher line on immigration and green laws.

But the far-right don’t always see eye-to-eye on issues like support for Ukraine, and a Brexit-style withdrawal isn’t on the agenda, said Mudde, a Professor at the University of Georgia, USA, who specialises in European populist extremism.

“In general, there will be less support for the deepening for European integration,” he told Euronews in an email, but added that “most far-right parties today want to transform rather than leave the EU.”

Greens lose support

Another potential change could be to the EU’s environment policy, as the bloc seeks to cut emissions by 55% by 2030.

The Green Party are set to lose 17 MEPs, according to the poll, mostly in France and Germany – while the EPP’s position has recently hardened against EU green policies.

But that doesn’t necessarily portend a climate U-Turn, given the EU has already set its overall strategic objectives, Jos Delbeke told Euronews in an interview.

“Major pieces of legislation have already been agreed,” and the next mandate will focus more on implementing them, said Delbeke, a Professor at the Florence School of Transnational Governance who formerly headed up the European Commission’s climate change department.

Dismantling the green deal “is going to be very hard to do” – despite rising farmer protests and some work still to do on tackling pollution and protecting nature, he said.

Uncertainties remain

Ipsos surveyed 25,916 people in 18 countries over the phone and online, between 23 February and 5 March. Those results were then re-weighted to ensure representativeness, and completed with documentary research for the remaining, smaller nine EU members.

But there's still three months to go – and these are projections, not results. Even after the elections are over, there could be changes of allegiance or new coalitions.

One key thing to watch will be the role of the “non-attached” MEPs who don’t belong to any defined group, who the poll suggests could constitute nearly 10% of lawmakers.

Though a mixed bag featuring left-wing and centrist politicians, they also include around a dozen from Hungary’s right-wing Fidesz party, which left the EPP in 2021. Account for them and the parliament could see a right-wing majority – albeit by a narrow margin.

Likewise, the position of Italy’s currently unaffiliated Five Star Movement could prove key. If it succeeds in joining the Green party, as it has attempted to do in the past, its predicted 16 MEPs could significantly change electoral arithmetic.

Keep up to date with the polling for the EU elections with Euronews' Polls Centre.