Far-right gains in EU elections deal humiliating defeats

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Monday, 10th June 2024.

Far-right parties rattled the traditional powers in the European Union and made major gains in parliamentary elections Sunday, dealing an especially humiliating defeat to French President Emmanuel Macron, prompting him to call early elections in France.

A spokesperson for the European Parliament stated on Sunday that the voter turnout in the European Parliament elections was 51 per cent, according to initial estimates. However, this number might still change as not all EU member states were included. The 2019 European Parliament elections had a voter turnout of 50.66 per cent.

On a night where the 27-member bloc palpably shifted to the right, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni more than doubled her seats in the EU parliament, cementing her role as a key Brussels power broker with an estimated 28 per cent of the votes.

And even if the Alternative for Germany extreme’s right party was hounded by scandal involving candidates, it still rallied enough seats to sweep past the slumping Social Democrats of Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Winners and losers

With polls now closed for European elections, it’s now becoming clear who the winners and losers are across the EU’s 27 Member States.

In Malta, the Labour Party won the 2024 MEP elections, but its majority was slashed from 42,000 to 8,454 and it lost a seat to the Opposition Nationalist Party. The two main parties shared the spoils: three seats each. Voters confirmed former Opposition lawmakers Roberta Metsola (EP president) and David Casa and Labour’s Alex Agius Saliba. The three newcomers are Peter Agius (PN), Daniel Attard and Thomas Bajada (PL). Roberta Metsola was re-elected with highest vote in EP history with 86,920 first-count votes.

The EPP group remained the biggest group in the EU Parliament, and gained 13 seats compared to 2019.

The Greens in Austria and Germany performed a lot worse than expected.

The liberal Renew group across the different member states lost 20 seats compared to 2019.

First estimates

According to Euronews, a first estimate of election results suggests the Green and liberal Renew parties each losing around 20 MEPs, potentially endangering the pro-European majority needed to back top officials and support EU laws.

A projection released just after midnight, produced after all polls closed, shows the Green party taking just 53 MEPs, compared to 72 in March 2024.

Renew, spearheaded by Macron, fell from 102 seats to 83, the figures suggest, leading the President to take the surprising move of dissolving the country’s National Assembly. That collapse is accompanied by rising support for the extreme parties, even if some of those have not yet been allocated to political groups.

In France, projections suggest the far-right National Rally (RN) party, has secured a whopping 31.5 per cent of the votes – more than twice the number gained by Macron, who released a message on Twitter: “France needs a clear majority to operate in calm concord,” Macron said. “I’ve understood your message, your preoccupations, and I won’t leave them without a response.”

The far-right FPÖ is also predicted to top the poll in Austria, doubling its number of MEPs to six after gaining 25.7 per cent of votes, projections showed.

In Germany, the Christian-Democrat CDU and CSU party is projected to get just over 30 per cent of the vote, similar to its 29 per cent from 2019. In the latest forecast, far-right Alternative for Germany comes third with 14.2 per cent, up from 11 per cet in 2019, and just behind the Social Democrats of Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Exit polls suggest Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia, which belongs to the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists grouping, has performed much better than the centre-left Democratic Party opposition, whose support is estimated at 23.7 per cent. Forza Italia and La Lega, two other parties in Meloni’s governing coalition, don’t appear to have fared so well, with 10.5 and eigth per cent respectively.

Those rightward trends are confirmed in Spain, where Vox is expected to increase its representation by two to three MEPs, while newcomers “The Party Is Over”, also identified as far-right populist, will gain their first-ever two or three MEPs, exit polls suggest.

Due to his Open VLD party’s disappointing performance in legislative elections, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced Sunday evening that he would resign starting today, June 10. His party received 5.9 per cent of the votes in the federal elections and 8.1 per cent in the regional elections. According to the first projection published on the Belgian Ministry of the Interior’s website, the N-VA would remain the leading parliamentary group with 24 seats, ahead of the MR (22 seats). The Reformist Movement (MR) achieved a decisive victory in both Brussels and Wallonia (26.1 per cent and 29.8 per cent of the respective votes so far). Belgians were called to cast ballots for a new federal parliament, regional parliaments, and members of the European Parliament all on Sunday.

In countries such as the Netherlands, voting took place on Thursday and the latest projections suggest Geert Wilders’ right-wing PVV party will scoop six seats. That swing was not as extreme as some had expected, enabling the Green-Left-Labour alliance, which is forecast by the exit poll to take eight Dutch seats in the European Parliament, to claim victory.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalist Fidesz party won the most votes in Sunday’s European Parliament elections, but preliminary results showed its worst performance in years. Orban’s Fidesz party had 43 per cent of the vote, down sharply from 52 per cent support in the 2019 EU elections. Opposition newcomer Peter Magyar’s centre-right party called Respect and Freedom (TISZA) stood at 31 per cent of the vote, with 55 per cent of the vote counted.

Official results show that left-wing and green parties made gains in the Nordics, while far-right parties saw their support diminish. In Sweden, the Social Democrats emerged as the largest party in the European elections, with just 25 per cent of the votes. The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party hoped to secure more votes than Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s conservative Moderate Party for second place. Instead, the party lost ground for the first time in its history in an election. It won 13.2 per cent of the vote, putting it behind the Moderate Party and the Green Party.

Denmark’s Socialist People’s Party became the largest party in the country, with 17.4 per cent of the vote. The ruling Social Democrats lost 5.9 percentage points and won 15.6 per cent of the votes.

In Finland, the big surprise of the evening was the socialist Left Alliance, which had 17.3 per cent of the vote, with all votes counted. The result meant the party secured three out of Finland’s 15 seats in the European Parliament, up from the one they got in the previous election. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo’s National Coalition Party still won the most votes with 24.8 per cent, giving them four seats. The far-right Finns Party, part of Orpo’s coalition government, saw its support fall drastically. They won only 7.6 per cent of votes, down 6.2 percentage points, leaving them with only one seat instead of two.

What now?

The elections, the world’s largest multi-state democratic exercise, determine which 720 Members of the European Parliament get to deliberate on EU legislation over the next five years. They took place after a turbulent period dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic and full-scale invasion of Ukraine – not to mention a soaring cost of living and imigration that came to dominate voter concerns.

Among MEPs’ first tasks will be to approve the candidate to lead the European Commission, with incumbent president Ursula von der Leyen hoping to secure a second term.

No single party has a majority in the European Parliament, and votes are often decided issue-by-issue by finding a coalition that commands the required majority.

The chamber has always been dominated by its two large groups, the centre-right European People’s Party and centre-left Socialists. The two lost their combined majority in the 2019 elections, since when they’ve had to form informal alliances with parties such as the Greens and Liberals – and projections suggest they’re unlikely to regain it in 2024.

MEPs will also get to amend or oppose new legislative proposals, leaving the fate of the EU Green Deal, an ambitious set of laws to cut carbon emissions, in the balance.

Each country is allocated a set number of MEPs in line with population, ranging from 96 for Germany, to just six each in Cyprus, Malta and Luxembourg.

For the first time since direct elections began in 1979, the count did not include the UK, whose 73 MEPs left after Brexit day in February 2020.

US ask for UN vote on draft ceasefire resolution

The United States has announced that it had requested a UN Security Council vote on its draft resolution for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. “Today the United States asked the Security Council to proceed to a vote on the draft resolution that supports the proposal on the table,” said US delegation spokesman Nate Evans without specifying the date of the vote.

The request for a UN Security Council vote ny thye United Stat5es came as Israel’s deadly mission to rescue hostages drew world-wide condemnation.

The deadly Israeli operation in Gaza to rescue four hostages abducted by Hamas has drawn condemnation, including from a top EU official, after it was ascertained that 270 Palestinians, including babies and children, were killed during Israel’s mission as explosions rocked the town of Nuserat,

The European Union’s Foreign Minister Joseph Borrell tweeted on Sunday: “Reports from Gaza of another massacre of civilians are appalling. We condemn this in the strongest terms. The bloodbath must end immediately.” In an earlier post on X, Borrell said: “We share the relief of their families and call for the release of all the remaining hostages.”

Israel’s military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, told reporters that military intelligence determined some time ago that the hostages were being held in two apartments, about 200 metres away from each other, in the heart of the Nuseirat camp in Gaza. He said the forces had trained repeatedly on a model of the apartment buildings.

Hagari said the forces moved in simultaneously in broad daylight on both apartments, believing this ensured the best element of surprise. But he said the rescuers came under heavy fire as they moved out, including from gunmen firing rocket-propelled grenades from within the neighborhood. One commando died from his injuries during the operation. “A lot of fire was around us,” he said, adding that the military responded with heavy force, including from aircraft, to extract the rescuers and freed hostages.

Neighboring Egypt has condemned the attack “with the strongest terms”, with its foreign ministry calling it a “flagrant violation of all rules of international law”. Neighboring Jordan also condemned it as a “brutal Israeli attack” that “reflects the systematic targeting of Palestinian civilians”. Turkey also had critical words for Israel’s raid, saying it was “barbaric”. Turkey’s foreign ministry said on Sunday: “Israel has added a new one to the list of war crimes it has committed in Gaza”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a statemen,t vowed to continue the fighting until all hostages are freed.

Reporters from Associated Press said they saw dozens of bodies being brought to the Al-Aqsa hospital, including a baby, while hospital workers told ITV News the situation was “catastrophic”.

International pressure is mounting on Israel to limit civilian bloodshed in its war in Gaza, which reached its eighth month on Friday with more than 36,700 Palestinians killed, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Gantz quits Israel war cabinet as Gaza conflict rages

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz quit Netanyahu’s government yesterday, heaping domestic pressure on the Israeli leader as the war in Gaza rages. The former general and defence minister announced his resignation from the emergency body after failing to get a post-war plan for Gaza approved by Netanyahu, which he demanded in May.

The centrist politician’s departure is not expected to bring down the government, a coalition including religious and ultra-nationalist parties, but it marks the first major political blow to Netanyahu eight months into the Gaza war against Palestinian Hamas militants. Experts say Netanyahu could now be forced to rely more heavily on his right-wing partners.

Gadi Eisenkot, also a former army chief and member of Gantz’s party, followed him out of the war cabinet, leaving the body with only three members. The war cabinet takes all major decisions about the conflict. “Netanyahu is preventing us from progressing to a real victory. That is why we are leaving the emergency government today with a heavy heart,” Gantz said. “I call on Netanyahu: set an agreed election date. Don’t let our people be torn apart.”

The Israeli premier responded within minutes, saying: “Benny, this is not the time to abandon the battle – this is the time to join forces.”

Trump tries to conquer Nevada

Donald Trump tries to definitively win the votes of Nevada, where the polls currently show him as the favourite, and during the rally in a scorching Las Vegas heat he promises that if he returns to the White House he will abolish taxes on tips. Addressing the “hotel employees” directly, the tycoon assured that “it will be the first measure” of his second mandate. “You do a great job, you take care of people, you deserve it,” the former president told a crowd of thousands of supporters.

India’s Modi sworn in as prime minister for historic third term

Narendra Modi was sworn in as India’s prime minister Sunday for a record-equalling third term, but as a restive coalition’s head after a shock poll setback that will test his ability to ensure policy certainty in the world’s most populous nation. President Murmu administered the oath of office to Modi at a grand ceremony attended by thousands of dignitaries, including the leaders of seven regional countries, Bollywood stars and industrialists. Modi is only the second person after independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru to serve a third straight term as prime minister.

Photo: FABIO CIMAGLIA / LAPRESSE / MAXPPP

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