Sunday, June 16, 2024

European elections: Far left lost seats, yet still gained in the north

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In the European elections on Sunday, socialists managed to secure seats as voters rejected current governments.

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One group that failed to resonate with voters in the European elections is the left-wing European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL).

It saw its seats diminish to 36, from 41 in 2019, according to the latest projections. It did, however, get unexpected support in Finland and Denmark, where the extreme left – as well as the Socialists and Democrats and Greens – made some big wins. 

Finland saw a surprise rise in the socialist Left Alliance (Vasemmistoliitto): the party gained 17.3% of the vote. Party leader Li Andersson, a 37-year-old former minister of education, received more votes than any other candidate has ever received in a European election. Turnout in Finland was 42.4%. 

No pre-election poll predicted such a significant result for the party, which came in second after the ruling liberal-conservative National Coalition Party. Broadcaster YLE said it was due to the popularity of the Left party leader – the “Andersson effect” – that one in seven people voted for her. The extreme left will get three of Finland’s 15 seats in the Parliament, up two from 2019. 

The far-right Finns Party, part of the coalition government, saw its support fall drastically. The Finns won 7.6% of votes, down 6.2%, which leaves them with only one seat instead of two.

Voters’ rejection

In Denmark too, the Socialist People’s Party (SF) emerged as the largest party with 17.4% of the vote, up 4.2% compared to last time.  

The ruling Social Democrats lost 5.9%, putting them at 15.6% of the votes. Danish media claimed this was tantamount to a protest vote against the incumbent government, in power since 2022, in which Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen included the liberal Venstre and Moderate parties. It makes this election one of the worst results for the Social Democrats ever recorded. 

Despite her loss, however, Frederiksen said in reaction that she was happy to see left-wing parties gaining ground. “In large parts of Europe, the right-wing has made significant progress. Here we stand out in Denmark,” she said in a post on Instagram. 

Declining support in Spain, Greece

Traditionally, the GUE/NGL group — which was founded in 1995 and campaigned with Austrian Walter Baier as its lead candidate ahead of the June vote — can count on more votes from member states such as Spain, Portugal and Greece.

As results are coming in, it seems that support has been falling there. An exception is France’s La France Insoumise which got nine seats, up from six in 2019. 

A look elsewhere in Europe shows that Spain’s Podemos has just secured two seats, and the Left Bloc in Portugal is projected to get one seat. Greece’s Syriza is going down in the polls, too, with around 16% of the vote, losing 9%. 

Ireland’s Fine Fail is expected to come in second or third with around 16% in the election there, possibly failing to secure its current three seats. Germany added another three seats with Die Linke, which also lost two seats. 

The newly established socialist Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht, founded in January of this year, is projected to get 6 seats. It’s unclear if the party, home to former members of Die Linke, will also join GUE/NGL or if it will remain independent.

In a response to yesterday’s election results, Baier said that the party managed to “maintain its strength.”

The party echoed these words in a statement. “While there are gains to celebrate in many countries, The Left is alert to the dangerous political currents fuelling division and influencing European politics,” it said.

Across Europe, the so-called ‘grand coalition’ between the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the liberal Renew Europe group together secured 403 lawmakers out of 720 seats, according to the latest projections.

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