The EU Elections and the Distribution of Seats in the European Parliament


The European Union is nearing its elections, which will take place from June 6th to June 9th. As we move closer to the voting dates, we at Lykke Advice are asking how political power will be distributed in the new European Parliament and what trends can be identified from polling data. 

To answer those questions, we delved into the polling data gathered by the news organisations Politico and EURACTIV. In the table below, we compare the current distribution of seats among political Groups in Parliament to the predictions for the next parliamentary term based on the most up-to-date polling data, retrieved 30th April 2024.  

There is a large cross-over between Politico’s and EURACTIV’s forecasts. However, the most prominent difference is that Politico has listed 43 of the next term’s MEPs as yet unaffiliated with an existing political Group. EURACTIV, on the other hand, predicted which political Groups they are most likely to join. 

Polling Data, 30th April  Forecast Forecast 
Group Current Seats Politico EURACTIV 
the Left 38 34 44 
Green 71 43 48 
S&D 141 138 140 
RE 101 88 86 
Non-Inscrit 50 40 48 
EPP 179 175 183 
ECR 67 76 86 
ID 58 83 84 
New Unaffiliated 43 
Total Seats 705 720 720 

The European Right 

The above polling data allows us to draw several conclusions. The most obvious trend is a clear rise in the expected seats to be held by right-wing political Groups. The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) is overwhelmingly expected to retain its position as the largest and most influential group in the Parliament. Note that even if the EPP gains a few more seats next term, as predicted, they will still have a proportional influence equal to the current term because the total number of seats in Parliament is rising from 705 to 720.   

The political Groups further to the right, namely the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID), are anticipated to make the largest gains in terms of new seats.  If we account for the three political groups on the right, the EPP, ECR, and ID, plus any right-wing non-inscrit (NI) or, as of yet, unaffiliated politicians, we see that the right-wing bloc would account for nearly 50% of the total available Parliamentary seats.  

While we can confidently say where the right-wing will gain seats, exactly where those seats fall among the groups is still up for debate. Right-wing national parties must decide whether they align themselves with the ECR or ID, a decision made based on the inter-party politics of the Group members: the size of their national delegation, the amount of influence they expect to exert on the Group, whether a party from their Member State is already in that Group and who the Group leadership will be and what their priorities are.   

We saw these right-wing divisions clearly earlier in the year when ID bedfellows France’s National Rally and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) had vocal disagreements over immigration policy, leading National Rally’s Marine Le Pen to suggest she may find more in common with the ECR after the election. The right-wing Italian delegations are also an example of this dilemma, as we have seen shifts between the ECR and ID among the parties Fratelli D’ Italia and Lega. Likewise, the Finns Party from Finland are switching from ID to ECR. Among all the political interplay, it remains unclear if the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz or the Dutch Geert Wilder’s PVV will try to merge into one of the Groups, which may have a knock-on effect for other parties that do not wish to associate with either by being in the same Group. 

And yet, it remains unlikely that a right-wing coalition of Groups will dominate the next Parliament. As shown above, there is significant disunity between the right-wing parties and Groups hampering cooperation. However, perhaps more of a hindrance is that the right-wing Groups are far less likely to develop and follow a Group voting line. Where the EPP, S&D or Renew Group frequently develop a unified position and vote as one voice, MEPs from the ECR and ID tend to vote based on national interests. So, despite the number of seats they have and are likely to gain, their voting power is difficult to coordinate and rarely harnessed for a singular purpose.  

The European Centre and Left 

Where the right-wing is anticipated to make gains, they come at the expense of the centre’s Renew Group and the left-wing environmentalist Greens. For the Renew Group, which is a big tent for all the liberal parties in the EU, their anticipated decline appears to be an unfortunate consequence of being squeezed from either side by the Parliament’s two largest Groups, the centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) and the previously mentioned centre-right EPP.  

The Greens had excellent success at the last EU elections in 2019, riding a wave of public sentiment that more needed to be done to protect the environment and climate. However, between Covid-19; the Russian invasion of Ukraine, conflict in the Middle-East, renewed worries about immigration, energy prices and the cost of living, the Greens are struggling to retain the same intensity of public interest in their policies, especially since so many of their core principles are equally shared by S&D or The Left, who are more firmly established in EU politics. The Greens are predominantly composed of smaller regional parties, animal welfare groups and pirate parties, which makes them more prone to political trends and fluctuations in voter interest.   

The centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) and the left-wing The Left are projected to retain their proportion of seats, with few fluctuations. For S&D, the continued cooperation of Spain’s Socialist Worker’s Party, Germany’s Social Democrats and Italy’s Democratic Party remains steady. Likewise, The Left is a mostly smooth-sailing cooperation between La France Insoumise and Germany’s Die Linke.  

Who will wield the power? 

Based on the projections, the three most central Groups, the EPP, Renew, and the S&D would have a combined might exceeding 50% of the Parliament’s voting power. That may lead to a similar dynamic to the current Parliament, where the Renew Group, the smallest of the three and yet caught in the middle, has wielded the role of kingmaker between the two larger Groups.     

The key difference going into the next Parliament is that the EPP will be far less dependent on S&D approval to pass legislation or amendments. If the EPP feel they are being asked to make too many concessions, they will have another option to their right in the ECR, which the EPP’s top candidate Ursula von der Leyen indicated at the recent Maastricht Debate.  

S&D is acutely aware of the threat of the right-wing to its parliamentary influence. Their top candidate for the June election, Nicolas Schmit, declared he would put his foot down and not work with far-right forces. His statement was met with agreement by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and former climate Commissioner Frans Timmermans, who want to “firmly reject any normalisation, cooperation or alliance with the far-right.”  

The Greens are in a similar position. Alongside S&D and Renew, they cooperated with EPP throughout the current Parliament to form a pro-European alliance that held a majority over “anti-European forces”, especially when it came to passing environmental and climate legislation. The Greens lead candidate, Terry Reintke, reiterated what S&D said, that they had ruled out cooperation with the ECR, and that they hoped to negotiate with the EPP to find a “pro-European and democratic” alternative solution to their cooperation with the right.  

The liberal Renew Group later joined their calls against working with the ECR. The president of the Renew Group Valérie Hayer, on the 6th of May told journalists, “There should be no link, no negotiation with the ECR.” 

If the EPP chooses to lean on the ECR’s support, we are more likely to see S&D lead a parliamentary opposition of The Left and the Greens.  

Likewise, ID is conscious that even if they achieve more than 80 seats, they will have few options for cooperation with another Group, especially if tensions remain with the ECR. One advantage that ID will obtain either way, is the acquisition of multiple chair positions in parliament committees, as well as rapporteur appointments for legislation, which is decided with the D’Hondt system based on the number of seats held by a Group.  

One thing that is unlikely to change with the next parliament, is that it’s the EPP, S&D and Renew Groups that predominantly and consistently show up to inter-Group negotiations on legislative files.   

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Lykke Advice is an independent Brussels-based lobbying agency. Our aim is to provide advice to companies and associations seeking a specific, tailor-made service from an agency that values quality outcomes. We only take on clients we believe in, and then we help them to grow their influence in Brussels. 


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