The Significance of European Parliament Elections in a Global Electoral Year
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By Maria Lundqvist*

The elections to the European Parliament, taking place in the midst of what has been dubbed a global “year of super elections,” present a unique and complex picture. Unlike the American presidential elections this fall, which carry an aura of critical destiny, or the contentious Russian state elections, these European elections proceed without the same dramatic overtones. There are no doubts about their feasibility, as seen in Ukraine’s presidential elections. Instead, these elections, involving nearly half a billion people, have come to be characterized by routine local electoral battles in recent years.

The reasons for this are multifaceted, stemming partly from the nature of the European Parliament itself. The European Union (EU) is grappling with integration challenges and falls short of being recognized as a full-fledged geopolitical player or acquiring the attributes of a unified state. The traditional Franco-German leadership within the EU is faltering, with no clear successor on the horizon. Consequently, the European Parliament struggles to shed its reputation as an ineffective “hullabaloo shop” with limited powers. For many politicians from EU countries, a seat in the European Parliament serves either as a stepping stone to a more substantial political career or as a comfortable retreat.

Despite this, the European Parliament elections still hold significance, often highlighted by the expert community. Their outcomes serve as a large-scale indicator of political sentiments across the EU, from Lisbon to Narva. European political elites also adapt the electoral configuration of the European Parliament to national election campaigns, which garner significantly more attention.

The Rise of Right-Wing Forces

The main intrigue of these elections lies in the growing popularity of right-wing forces within the EU. Parties such as Alternative for Germany (AfD) and France’s National Rally, which form the Identity and Democracy faction, are gaining traction. While achieving an outright majority is unattainable, significant success at the European level could translate into substantial national gains.

Germany exemplifies the interplay between European and national elections. The German electoral calendar for 2024-2025 reflects this interconnectedness. The summer elections of European deputies are followed by autumn elections in the eastern federal states and Hamburg, culminating in the Bundestag elections in the fall of 2025. This progression underscores the hierarchy of electoral priorities. The AfD, facing different challenges in each campaign, started to be discredited even before the European Parliament elections, highlighting the interconnected nature of these electoral processes.

The increasing incidents of political violence, such as the attack on Social Democrat Matthias Ecke, further illustrate the close connection between European and national political dynamics. Despite the European Parliament’s perceived ineffectiveness, its role in shaping the EU’s ideological landscape is significant. The opportunity for political contestation within this legislative body reflects broader societal tensions and aspirations.

The Broader Implications

However, the elections to the European Parliament are not a solution to the EU’s deep-rooted problems. These structural challenges extend beyond Europe’s borders, and the transformation of the European Parliament’s political image will reverberate through national electoral processes. Right-wing populist rhetoric, often dismissed by mainstream political forces, reflects legitimate voter concerns. This rhetoric, seen in the freethinking of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, is tolerated in Brussels as a necessary evil.

Interestingly, the far-right forces within the EU are more likely to strengthen their representation within the current system than to dismantle it. The divisions within the European far-right and their pragmatic approach to the EU suggest they seek reform rather than dissolution. The friction within the Franco-German axis affects parties like Le Pen’s National Rally and the AfD, highlighting the complex dynamics within these groups.

The European Parliament elections are a barometer of public sentiment and a precursor to more significant national electoral battles. The growing influence of right-wing forces and the persistent structural challenges underscore the need for a nuanced understanding of the EU’s political future. As Europe navigates these complex dynamics, the implications for its governance, unity, and relationship with the global community remain profound.

In conclusion, while the European Parliament elections alone cannot resolve the EU’s systemic issues, they provide crucial insights into the evolving political landscape. These elections reflect the broader societal tensions and aspirations within the EU, highlighting the need for comprehensive and nuanced political strategies. As Europe faces these challenges, understanding and addressing the underlying issues becomes more critical.

*Maria Lundqvist, a dedicated collaborator at Smartencyclopedia, has expertise in European affairs, diplomacy, geopolitics, and international relations. Maria’s profound knowledge and keen insights into these fields make her an invaluable asset to our platform.

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