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European elections: Three things that could disrupt the status quo in Brussels

A man walks toward an election banner outside the European Parliament in Brussels on Monday, April 29, 2024. The European Elections will take place from June 6 to June 9, 2024
A man walks toward an election banner outside the European Parliament in Brussels on Monday, April 29, 2024. The European Elections will take place from June 6 to June 9, 2024 Copyright Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Mared Gwyn Jones
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Opinion polls predict voters will veer to the right - and shift the balance of power in Brussels.

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Between the 6th and 9th of June, around 373 million Europeans will be called to the ballot box to elect 720 new members to the European Parliament.

Polls suggest traditional, centrist forces are under strain as voters flock to the far right.

Some say it could shift the power dial in the European Parliament and give right-wing lawmakers more influence than ever over the bloc's policies, including on issues such as migration, climate, agriculture, trade and technology.

But much will depend on what happens on election night - and on the political power brokering after the vote.

Euronews breaks down three things to look out for in the election.

1. Will the far right surge as expected?

Far-right forces campaigning on promises to slash migration, row back on climate action and restore so-called sovereignty to European nations are seeing their support creep up in all corners of the continent.

In the European Parliament, radical right-wing forces club together to form two groups: the nationalist European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which includes the likes of Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FdI) and Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS), and the more hardline far-right Identity and Democracy (ID), which harbours Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) and Geert Wilders’ Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV).

Euronews’ Super Poll predicts that between them, they could secure as many as 20% of all seats in the next European Parliament. The radical right-wing is also on track to win the vote in around six member states - including Belgium, France and Italy.

But the European Parliament's right wing is deeply divided, disorganised and distrusted by pro-European forces. Even if the polls’ predictions materialise on election night, these parties will need to find unity if they are to wield their new-found influence on the EU stage.

Italy’s Giorgia Meloni has been cast as a kingmakerahead of the vote, as partners to her left fight for her support. Firstly, Ursula von der Leyen, the pick of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) for European Commission president, has openly expressed her willingness to strike agreements with Meloni, and could rely on the support of her Brothers of Italy lawmakers to secure a second term.

It prompted outrage from the EPP's traditional allies on the centre-left and centre.

At the same time, France's Marine Le Pen is also courting Meloni to unite the European Parliament's right-wing forces into a far-right alliance, which could include parties currently without a political family in the European Parliament, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's Fidesz.

Such a group could take months to take form, but if these parties do manage to see past their differences, they could potentially become the second biggest political force in the European Parliament.

2. Will the centre ground hold?

For decades, the European Parliament has been able to pass laws because the pro-European parties at the centre have agreed to work together.

The centre-right EPP, the centrist Renew Europe and the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) have always managed to clinch a comfortable majority of all seats, and have also relied on the Greens for some key votes.

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This does not mean that they always vote together on all legislative files, but rather form 'ad-hoc' coalitions to ensure the parliament's work as co-legislator can proceed smoothly.

But polling predicts this coalition of parties will come under more strain than ever. Discontent with the traditional ruling parties is prompting more voters to look towards not only the radical right, but also the radical left.

Euronews' Super Poll suggests the three biggest groups in the European Parliament will still hold on to a majority of seats, but the majority is likely to be slimmer than ever, in a sign that the centre ground is losing its appeal.

The trend is most evident in countries such as France, where the far-right National Rally has slowly but steadily accumulated a solid voter base at the expense of traditional parties.

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3. What happens the day after?

The future of the European Parliament and the wider EU institutions could depend as much on the outcome of the vote itself as it will on political bargaining during the following weeks and months.

The election result should influence who becomes the next president of the European Commission, the EU's powerful executive arm.

For the past decade, the bloc has tried to throw its weight behind the so-called Spitzenkandidaten system, where Europe's political parties field a lead candidate to preside over the Commission.

With the EPP more or less guaranteed to emerge as the biggest European political party at the end of election night, their pick Ursula von der Leyen should be in pole position to secure a second term in the role.

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But she will need the endorsement of an absolute majority of new Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to secure the job, and that could prove difficult if her traditional allies turn their backs on her because of her recent overtures to Meloni and the hard right.

The vote in the parliament is expected in September and will take place as a secret ballot. Some national delegations within von der Leyen's own EPP party are even set to vote against her, such as France's centre-right The Republicans.

But EU leaders could also choose to nominate a completely new candidate as they did in 2019, meaning an unlikely face could also be parachuted to the most influential EU job.

The elections will also trigger a broader race to other top jobs in Brussels, such as the president of the European Council - currently held by former Belgian prime minister Charles Michel - and the top diplomat steering the European External Action Service (EEAS).

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Distributing these roles requires a delicate balancing act between gender, geographical representation and political affiliation. EU leaders are expected to gather twice in Brussels later in June to discuss their picks for the three roles.

Video editor • Mert Can Yilmaz

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