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EPP leads European vote polls as far right grows dramatically with liberals in free fall

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen listens during a session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, 23 April 2024
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen listens during a session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, 23 April 2024 Copyright AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias
Copyright AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias
By Sergio Cantone with Euronews
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An abrupt shift to the political right is likely to mean the next head of the European Commission will be a conservative — but the right-wing camp is affected by many political rifts, some, almost insurmountable, exclusive Euronews superpoll shows.

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Conservative forces are set to win the European elections, the latest Euronews Super Poll from the Euronews Polls Centre can exclusively reveal. 

Parties from the centre-right, ultraconservative and far-right are leading the polls in the main EU countries. 

Meanwhile, liberal-democrats are likely to face a painful defeat, as the centre-left settles into fragile stability with moderate losses and timid gains, depending on the country.

The main consequence of the election could be the appointment of a new conservative head of the European Commission. A harsh struggle between already established and new parliamentary groups and the alliances over who will run EU affairs over the next five years is also likely to ensue.

Digging deeper

The European People's Party (EPP) is set to confirm its relative majority at the European Parliament. 

However, far-right and ultra-conservative forces are also set to win big, the Euronews poll suggests: in France, Identity and Democracy (ID) member Marine Le Pen and her National Rally (Rassemblement National, RN) party. In Italy, European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) PM Giorgia Meloni and her Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d'Italia, FdI) party are on the road to victory. 

In the Netherlands, ID member Geert Wilder's Party for Freedom (PVV) leads the polls, and in Romania, Adela Mirza and her Right Alternative (AD) are vyingg for the lead with government ruling party PNL (EPP) and PSD (S&D).

Some EPP affiliates have been leading the polls in Germany since March, with Friedriech Merz's CDU-CSU, Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Civic Platform (PO), and Alberto Núñez Feijóo's People's Party (PP) in Spain. 

Both Germany's CDU-CSU and Spain's PP sit as opposition parties, while Tusk's PO is the ruling party in Poland.

The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group will likely contend for second place against the far right and national conservatives.

Two significant countries with left-leaning and labour-conscious prime ministers still in power are Olaf Scholz and Pedro Sánchez, from Germany and Spain, respectively.

Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, speaks with Spain's acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez
Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, speaks with Spain's acting Prime Minister Pedro SanchezFernando Calvo/AP

Chancellor Scholz's Social Democratic Party (SPD) is in third position, one seat behind the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

According to the polls, liberal-democrats Renew are bound to suffer heavy voter losses across Europe. France, which used to be a stronghold for the party, will become a battleground. President Macron's Renaissance party belongs to Renew.

Renew President Valérie Hayer will expel Dutch liberals from the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), the party of former Dutch Premier Mark Rutte, after they agreed to a four-way coalition with Wilders' PVV in the Netherlands last week.

Former Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, right, and right-wing populist leader Geert Wilders
Former Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, right, and right-wing populist leader Geert WildersYves Herman/AP

Far-right Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her party FdI are among the largest members of the nationalist-conservative ECR, along with Poland's Law and Justice (PiS) party and Spain's Vox. 

The ECR was created in early 2009 when the British Conservatives left the EPP and joined other European political movements with similar political values. Anti-European federalism, conservative social policies and criticism of Franco-German EU leadership became its trademarks.

The British Conservatives left the ECR after Brexit.

ECR party members are stuck between preserving traditional conservative values and far-right stances. Far-right groups ECR and ID share strong anti-migration and populist rhetoric.

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After last week's far-right gathering in Madrid, Meloni and Le Pen have hinted at some sort of reconciliation after years of competition. It could be an attempt to find common ground and collaborate in post-EU election talks.

French far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen, centre and president Jordan Bardella
French far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen, centre and president Jordan BardellaDaniel Cole/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

With the results Meloni and Le Pen's parties are expected to obtain, both leaders have the rare opportunity to critically influence EU policy making over the next five years. 

On Tuesday, the relationship between Le Pen and AfD became strained after the party's head of the electoral list, Maximilian Krah, said in an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica, “Never say that anyone who wore an SS uniform was automatically a criminal."

Germany's Maximilian Krah, of the German far-right Alternative for Germany party
Germany's Maximilian Krah, of the German far-right Alternative for Germany partyJean-Francois Badias/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

Questions remain

The Conservative camp is highly divided. Many EPP members are either Federalists or strongly pro-European. However, this is not the case for the majority of ECR and ID members.

A centre-right plus right coalition could derail before it has even begun on the basis of different European principles or political strategies such as the EU droit de regard on the rule of law in every member state, the creation of enhanced EU Defence structures, and green economy investments.

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Voting figures suggest a conservative majority, which would mean conservative parties could have a say on the appointment of the president of the commission.

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni
Italian Premier Giorgia MeloniMauro Scrobogna/LaPresse

Nevertheless, national governments are legally mandated to decide who will run the EU Commission. France, Germany and Spain have liberal and social democratic governments. Thus, the appointment of an European Commission president based on the results of the EU elections and without the active participation of Emmanuel Macron would be unrealistic.

Similarly, a reboot of a grand coalition between the EPP, Renew and S&D would be at odds with the will of EU voters.

Even a coalition between the EPP, ECR, and Renew doesn't seem achievable. French President Emmanuel Macron, Renew's biggest sponsor, would have difficulty finding common ground with the ECR and vice versa.

France's President Emmanuel Macron, left, speaks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
France's President Emmanuel Macron, left, speaks with European Commission President Ursula von der LeyenGeert Vanden Wijngaert/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

What the polls say

"Emmanuel Macron will push for the traditional majority, EPP, S&D and Renew. It is still justified by the figures we see in our forecasts," says Francesco Sismondini from the Euronews Polls Centre.

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Ultra-conservatives are trying to avoid this outcome by reestablishing good relations with each other, as seen in Madrid's far-right Vox conference last week.

"Leaders of both ECR and far right groups like Giorgia Meloni and Marine Le Pen can try to find common ground," explains Sismondini. "And in order to reach it they must take some difficult decisions, like breaking with the AfD for Marine Le Pen and becoming moderate on issues such as migration, social questions and supporting Ukraine."

But the playing field is still wide open. It's not only a matter of voting figures - politics still needs to have its say, says. Sismondini: "As soon as the negotiations start after the elections, we will see that the political groups at the EU parliament are not that attached [to each other]".

However, the far-right victory in some important countries will inevitably influence the appointments of the EU's top-level jobs, such as the head of the Commission, the European Council President, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

"We can foresee an effort by the right and far-right political groups to get some support from the traditional far-right voters," said Sismondini. "Some efforts are extremely clear. The Rassemblement National is very strong. Macron's party in France comes second, but with a gap of 16% with the Rassemblement National."

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