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A central and eastern EU elections summary

While the results of the EU parliamentary elections in Central and Eastern Europe did not lead to political upheaval as seen in France, it is becoming clear that the far-right representation in Strasbourg will increase from this part of Europe.

June 11, 2024 - Ottilie Tabberer - Articles and CommentaryHot Topics

Voting for local and European Parliamentary elections in Sofia on June 9th 2024. Photo: Rosen Ivanov Iliev / Shutterstock

Where Romania’s successful coalition countered the far-right, such extreme forces made major gains across the CEE region, namely in Germany, Austria and Slovenia. Meanwhile, in Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia and Estonia, the success of opposition parties is a strong signal to the ones in power to up their game. Low turnouts and fragmented results form the scene in Lithuania and Bulgaria, while in Poland, Latvia and Croatia, the centre-right victories reflect the general largest political groupings in the next European Union parliament.


‘Poland is a leader of the EU’ – Donald Tusk, Polish PM.

Poland’s centrist Civic Coalition (KO), led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk, came in first with 37.1 per cent of the vote and 21 seats. The national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party followed close behind with 36.2 per cent and 20 seats. The far-right Confederation (Konfederacja) took third place with 12.1 per cent, marking its best result ever. KO’s junior coalition partners, the centre-right Third Way and The Left, received 6.9 per cent and 6.3 per cent, respectively. It will be the first time since 2014 that PiS has not finished first in any election.

Tusk expressed joy and commitment to continuing their progress, while PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński acknowledged the challenge and emphasised the need to analyse the results. Confederation celebrated its surge in support, especially among voters under 30.

Turnout at 40.7 per cent was higher than in most Polish EU elections, but still five percentage points lower than in the 2019 vote.


‘The Romanians gave a democracy lesson’ – Nicolae Ciucă, PNL (National Liberal Party) chairman.

The ruling coalition of the Social Democrats (PSD) and Liberals secured significant victories in both local and European Parliament elections. In the European Parliament elections, the PSD and Liberals ran together to counter the rise of the far-right Alliance for the Unity of Romanians (AUR), successfully obtaining 53 per cent of the vote. This cooperation helped mitigate AUR’s impact, which received 15 per cent of the vote, resulting in four or five MEPs. Despite their gains, mainstream parties were relieved that AUR’s support was lower than expected.

Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu and PNL chairman Nicolae Ciucă celebrated the results as a triumph for democracy and a rejection of extremism.

Voter turnout was 52.4 per cent, the highest since Romania joined the EU in 2007.


‘We’ve done well because people have become more anti-European’ – Alice Weidel, AFD vice president.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has dismissed calls for snap elections following a poor performance by his coalition in the recent European Parliament elections. Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) scored their worst-ever result in a nationwide vote with just 14 per cent, while coalition partners the Greens and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) obtained 12 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively. The opposition centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) emerged as the clear winners with 30 per cent of the vote.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) made significant gains, securing almost 16 per cent and coming in second, marking their record result in a nationwide vote, with big gains in the country’s east former GDR states and among younger voters. The AfD’s strong performance reflects growing anti-European sentiment and the shifting political landscape in Germany, making coalition formations increasingly challenging for established parties.

Voter turnout soared at 64.8 per cent.


‘A new era in politics in Austria and Europe’ – Herbert Kickl, leader of FPÖ.

Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) achieved its first ever victory in a European election, securing 25.5 per cent of the vote, narrowly beating the ruling conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) with 24.5 per cent. The FPÖ plans to carry this momentum into the national parliamentary election later this year, where opinion polls show them with a larger lead. The FPÖ, which opposes arms shipments to Ukraine and sanctions against Russia, now focuses on reducing the European Union’s powers and budget. The Social Democrats came third with 23.3 per cent, followed by the Greens with 10.9 per cent, and the liberal Neos with 10.1 per cent.

Chancellor Karl Nehammer pledged to address voters’ concerns ahead of national elections, due later in the year, including cracking down on illegal migration.

Voter turnout was one of the highest among EU members with 54 per cent.


‘We have brought freshness into the Slovenian political arena and we think we have a bright future ahead’ – Vladimir Prebilič, Vesna

In Slovenia’s recent EU election on June 9, the right-wing Democrats (SDS) led by former Prime Minister Janez Janša emerged as the big winners, securing four of the country’s nine seats in the European Parliament, doubling their previous tally. The ruling centre-left coalition’s largest party, the Freedom Movement, won two seats. The remaining three seats went to the green party Vesna, the Social Democrats (SD), and the opposition Christian democratic party New Slovenia (NSi).

PM Robert Golob of the Freedom Movement expressed satisfaction with the centre-left’s overall vote share, which surpassed the centre-right’s. Vesna celebrated its result, viewing it as a sign of a bright future in Slovenian politics.

A record-high voter turnout reached 41 per cent.


‘I will be the voice of the ordinary people. I serve you.’ – Stephen Nikola Bartulica, Homeland Movement MEP.

The ruling centre-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) secured a decisive victory, winning 34.6 per cent of the vote and six out of the 12 available seats. The centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) gained four seats, while the far-right Homeland Movement and the left-green Možemo! (We Can!) each obtained one seat.

Despite HDZ’s success, voter turnout was notably low at 21.3 per cent, a significant drop from the previous election’s turnout. Prime Minister Andrej Plenković attributed this to voter fatigue following recent parliamentary elections.


‘This result is the Waterloo of Orbán’s factory of power. The beginning of the end’ – Péter Magyar, leader of TISZA.

In Hungary’s European Parliament election, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party experienced its worst result in nearly two decades, securing 44.8 per cent of the vote and 11 seats, down from 13 seats. Orban declared the results a victory, affirming his government’s policies. The right-of-centre TISZA party, led by newcomer Péter Magyar, came second with 30 per cent of the vote, winning seven seats just three months after it was formed. TISZA has gained traction by promising to address corruption and restore democratic checks, capitalising on voter frustration with Hungary’s traditional opposition parties.

Voter turnout was a high 59.2 per cent.


‘[The coalition] could secure a certain degree of stability, but I am not sure about reforms especially those regarding corruption’ – Daniel Smilov, associate professor at Sofia University.

Populist ex-prime minister Boyko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party led with 23.5 per cent of the vote, marking a political comeback. However, the fragmented results indicate continued political instability, with GERB needing at least two coalition partners to form a government. The centrist Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) secured 14.6 per cent, followed closely by the pro-Western reformist bloc We Continue the Change with 14.4 per cent. The ultra-nationalist Vazrazhdane (Revival) party, which opposes sanctions on Russia, came in fourth with 14 per cent.

Voter turnout was 33.8 per cent, a historic low. The elections highlighted voter apathy and a general desire for stability and prosperity in the country.


‘The vote was a referendum on this government and a referendum on peace – and we won both’ – Kateřina Konečná, leader of Stačilo!.

In Czechia, Andrej Babiš’s ANO party emerged as the winner, securing 26 per cent of the vote and gaining seven out of the country’s 21 seats. The government coalition SPOLU, consisting of the Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats, and TOP 09, came in second with 22.3 per cent and six seats. This result marked a significant setback for the ruling coalition, which lost two seats compared to the previous election.

Two unexpected coalitions, Oath and Motorists and Stačilo! (Enough!), each secured two seats, reflecting a protest vote against the current government and dissatisfaction with the EU’s direction. The Mayors and Independents (STAN) and the Pirate Party won two and one seats, respectively. The Freedom and Direct Democracy Party also gained one seat.

Voter turnout was high at 36.5 per cent, the highest since Czechia joined the EU.


‘A very important message to this government: slow down, because you cannot do whatever you want’ – Michal Simecka, PS (Progressive Slovakia) chairman.

In a surprising outcome, Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico and his Smer-SD party were defeated in the EU elections by the opposition party, PS. Despite expectations that the assassination attempt on Fico would boost his support, PS secured 27.8 per cent of the vote, winning six seats in the European Parliament. Smer-SD received 24.8 per cent of the vote, earning five seats. The far-right Republika came third with 12.5 per cent and two seats.

The attack on Fico, where he was shot four times by a 71-year-old poet, has been linked to heightened political tensions. Political analysts noted that the attack may have mobilised voters for both sides. PS chairman Michal Šimečka emphasised that the election results sent a strong message to the government to exercise restraint.

Voter turnout was nearly 34.4 per cent, higher than in previous EU elections in Slovakia.


‘Voters aren’t satisfied with the work of the current government, especially when it comes to the state of the economy’ – Kristina Kallas, Eesti 200 deputy chair.

Estonia’s centre-right opposition party Isamaa secured the highest vote share. The top three parties were Isamaa, the Social Democratic Party (SDE), and Reform. They were followed by far-right EKRE and Center. Consequently, Isamaa and SDE were awarded two mandates each, while Reform, Center, and EKRE received one each, filling Estonia’s seven seats in the parliament.

SDE’s Marina Kaljurand received the highest individual vote count but saw a significant decrease from her 2019 total. Eesti 200 was the only parliamentary party to fail to win a mandate.

Overall voter turnout was 37.7 per cent.


‘If you weigh the scales, losing Ukraine as an important geopolitical country or rearranging your finances, then it is clear that the geopolitical side is much more important’ – Roberts Zīle, lead candidate of National Alliance.

Leading in the polls was Latvia’s centre-right National Alliance, campaigning on national defence and EU border security. The left-leaning Progressives focused on supporting Ukraine and environmental issues, while the centrist New Unity party, led by EU Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, emphasised security and condemnation of Russia’s actions.

Latvia’s historical context and proximity to Russia, especially after Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, have heightened security concerns, leading to the reintroduction of conscription supported by the public.

Latvia’s voter turnout was 33.8 per cent, similar to 2019. The polls indicated varying levels of interest among age groups, with younger voters less engaged.


‘The low turnout is favourable to the ‘more polarising actors’’ – Mažvydas Jastramskis, an associate professor at the Vilnius University.

Lithuania saw the ruling conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) perform best, securing three out of the 11 seats available. The opposition Social Democrats followed with two seats. Analysts suggest that the European Parliament election results may not predict outcomes for the upcoming Lithuanian general elections in October, where higher voter turnout (estimated between 50-60 per cent) could significantly alter results.

Other parties gaining one seat each include the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, the Freedom Party, the Democrats “For Lithuania,” the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania-Christian Families Alliance (LLRA-KŠS), the Liberal Movement, and the Nation and Justice Union. Notably, Waldemar Tomaszewski, re-elected MEP from the LLRA-KŠS, emphasised the need to improve relations with Belarus despite ongoing political tensions.

Voter turnout was one of the lowest in the bloc at 28.3 per cent.

Dispirited voters and centre-right regional consensus

As we can see, these elections have once more laid bare a varying political terrain in the CEE region and revealed both increased voter apathy and activity. Countries like Croatia and Lithuania saw a shocking drop in turnout with a 25 per cent and 9 per cent drop, respectively. However, Slovenia, Czechia and Slovakia saw a significant turnout increase since 2019, compared to the western part of the continent. Although the CEE countries contribute to putting rightward pressure on EU policy, the centre-right establishment still holds.

Ottilie Tabberer is a master’s student in East European, Russian and Eurasian Studies. Her studies and personal interests (languages, mountains, markets!) have led her to live in Ukraine, Georgia, Estonia, and currently, Poland.

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