Jun. 10, 2024 |

In five years, bear right. In elections across Europe this week, voters from the EU’s 27 member states moved the European Parliament rightward—though not as far as many expected they would.

The center-right European People’s Party is still the Parliament’s largest bloc, gaining four seats from the last election in 2019. The populist-right European Conservatives & Reformists gained 11 seats, but the EPP won’t have to work with them to form a governing majority. Instead, they look almost certain to rely on their current coalition partners, the centrist Renew Europe and the center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats, each of which lost about 20 seats.

Still, the populist right showed its power in Germany and France: Germany’s neo-fascist Alternative für Deutschland finished second nationally, and France’s National Rally nearly doubled the tally of Renaissance, the ruling party of President Emanuel Macron—who responded to the lopsided defeat by calling for new parliamentary elections.

For more than a decade, parties of the populist right have been gaining power in Europe—and are now either taking control or poised to win elections throughout the continent. As we’ve explored here at The Signal: Italy’s populist-right Fratelli d’Italia, founded by former members of the Fascist Party, won elections in September 2022; the Dutch populist Geert Wilders won his country’s elections last November, though he has yet to form a governing coalition; and in 2023, Germany’s AfD became the second most popular political party in the country, despite its increasingly hostile rhetoric.

In power, though, the populist right has also now experienced defeat, after Poland’s Law & Justice Party—which came to power 10 years ago—was ousted from control last October by a coalition of opposition parties. There’s still no evidence that this generally surprising result might represent any counter-trend in Europe—but here, as in India, democracy can always defy predictions and storylines.