Eurosceptic parties gain in poll

Ursula seeks to piece together centrist allies

Reuters June 11, 2024


European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen began trying to piece together a coalition on Monday after the far right gained ground in a European Parliament election, spurring French President Emmanuel Macron to call a snap national vote.

Centrist parties won a majority of seats in the four-day election, but the rightward shift may make it tougher to pass new legislation to respond to security challenges, climate change or industrial competition from China and the US.

Von der Leyen, the German president of the European Union’s powerful executive body, emerged strengthened from the election across 27 countries that concluded on Sunday, as her centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) gained seats.

But to secure a second five-year term, von der Leyen needs the support of a majority of the EU’s national leaders and a working majority in the European Parliament. Among the leaders, Macron is leaning towards backing von der Leyen, two sources told Reuters.

While he was diminished by a heavy defeat to the far right in the European poll, the French president remains a key figure among EU leaders. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, also weakened by a poor election result, said on Monday he favoured a quick decision on the EU leadership posts.

While he did not endorse von der Leyen publicly, his government is widely expected to support her. “There is no reason to take too long with this,” Scholz told reporters in Berlin.

In the Parliament, the parties that backed von der Leyen last time - the EPP, socialists and liberals - won 400 seats in the 720-member chamber, according to provisional results. That is widely regarded in Brussels as too tight a majority for comfort, so von der Leyen may also reach out to the Greens, who suffered heavy losses, and Italy’s nationalist Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, with whom she has worked closely.

However, the socialists, liberals and Greens have all declared they will not work with the far right, making von der Leyen’s coalition-building efforts extremely delicate. 



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