How well did the left go in the June 9 European election?

June 20, 2024
graph of election results
Provisional results of the 2024 European Elections, as at June 19. Source:

At first glance it looks as if the parties to the left of the social democracy held their ground against the surge of the far right and mainstream right that marked the June 9 European Union (EU) parliamentary elections (see here for results in detail).

Although the smallest of the European parliament’s seven groups, The Left managed to maintain its EU-wide vote at 5.4% and increase its seat tally from 37 to 39 in the 720-seat assembly.

In addition, left green Members of the European Parliaments (MEPs) and those representing stateless nations (part of the Greens group as the European Free Alliance) at least maintained their numbers in the chamber.

Yet the Greens group as a whole shrank from 71 seats to 53 while that of the liberals (known as Renew) fell from 102 to 79. This drop reflected that the environmental issues that in part drove the big advance of these parties in the 2019 election were less important for many voters this time.

The campaign was dominated by insecurity about the future, the cost of living (particularly housing), the fear of war, the “immigration threat” and intolerance of difference.

In this grim atmosphere the biggest growth went to the mainstream right European People’s Party and the two far-right groups (Identity and Democracy and Conservatives and Reformists): taken together the right and far right won an extra 30 seats, bring it to 324.

Because it would take only 37 ungrouped MEPs to join them to from a reactionary majority, the June 9 result poses with new urgency two old questions about politics in the European parliament. How much, if at all, does the real balance of political forces in the chamber differ from that among its formal groupings? And how much does membership of a group represent disciplined commitment to its positions?

Left divisions over Ukraine

The questions are sharply relevant in the case of the Left group, where differences over what stance to take towards the Russian invasion of Ukraine were already pointing towards a split before June 9.

On May 31, Li Andersson, chairperson of the Finnish Left Alliance told the Helsinki Times that these differences could not be tolerated in the group in the new legislature. Referring to Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, Irish left independent opponents of military aid to Ukraine, Andersson said: “The Nordic Green Left as a whole [covering Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands] is of the opinion that if they manage to win re-election, they can’t join our group.”

For Andersson, the same went for the new Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance: For Reason and Justice (BSW), a split in Germany from leading Left group member Die Linke (The Left). BSW opposes military aid to Ukraine and supports resuming the gas trade with Russia, in common with most of Europe’s far-right parties.

At bottom, the different positions towards the Ukraine within The Left group reflect social reactions that differ according to European regions and closeness to Russia.

Is the Putin regime’s invasion of Ukraine the primary threat (the position of the Nordic left parties as well as those in the Baltic states and Poland) or does this come from war, rearmament and the NATO alliance (position of Podemos and EH Bildu in the Spanish State, parties of the Italian and French left, and the Irish left independents)?

Or, again, is Russia’s war on Ukraine just a side issue when compared to declining living standards, global warming, rising racism and the right’s counter-offensive against the gains of women?


The June 9 national level vote for left forces (as well as for left green forces and those representing Europe’s stateless nations) cast some light on this complex issue.

The greatest gains in seats and votes were in the Nordic countries, where support for Ukraine and solidarity with Palestine against Israel’s genocidal state were factors.

Finland’s Left Alliance rose from 6.9% to 17.3% with its MEPs increasing from one to three. Andersson told Jacobin on June 12 that voters in Finland punished the far right for betraying workers and low-income earners and attacking social and health care services in government.

In Denmark, Green Left — formerly the Socialist People’s Party and a left member of the Greens group — jumped from 10.9% to 17.4% and one seat to three.

Sweden’s Left Party jumped from 6.8% to 11% and one seat to two. Denmark’s Red-Green Alliance’s vote increased from 5.5% to 7% as it maintained its one MEP.

The other positive gains were in France, Belgium and Italy. France Insoumise (LFI) increased its vote from 6.3% to 9.9% (six seats to nine); the Workers Party of Belgium (PTB-PVDA) in Flanders added a seat to the one it already held in French-speaking Wallonia (its vote rose from 4.95% to 8.1%); and the Italian left will now reappear in Europe with two seats (its vote climbed from 4.1% to 6.8%).

Support for Palestine was an important factor in these gains, especially in France where LFI has established itself as the lead party in the working-class and immigrant neighbourhoods of Paris and Marseilles. The same held for a lesser degree for Italy, but another important factor was the unity achieved in the Left Green Alliance by Green Europe and the Italian Left (running separately in 2019, neither had won a seat).

In Belgium, the European poll was accompanied by federal, regional and local elections, and the PTB-PDVA’s European result may have suffered as a result, as polling had shown it winning a second seat in Wallonia. However, any disappointment would have been tempered by its result in the 150-seat Belgium federal parliament, where the party increased its tally from 12 seats to 15, overtaking the Socialist Party as the main force on the left.

No such effect would have been felt in Ireland: there Sinn Fein had polled as high as 26% with the possibility of four MEPs. The outcome was an increase from one MEP to two, achieved despite a fall in the vote (from 11.7% to 11.1%). Neither Clare Daly nor Mick Wallace were re-elected.


The worst losses were in Southern Europe. In Greece, Syriza fell from 23.8% to 14.9% (six seats to four), AKEL in Cyprus from 27.5% to 21.5% and in Portugal the Left Bloc fell from 9.8% to 4.3% and the Unitary Democratic Coalition (centred on the Portuguese Communist Party) from 6.9% to 4.1%. These last three forces were reduced from two MEPs to one apiece.

Different causes were at work in each case but a shared factor — common to all Europe but most marked in the South — was the rightward shift of young male voters in reaction to the wave of feminism.

The most extreme symptoms of this trend were the two-seat gain (with 9.8%) of the Portuguese Chega! (Enough!) and the three-seat gain for The Party’s Over, the alt-right, social-network powered tool of “influencer” Alvise Pérez, who stands for “freedom” in the style of Argentinian president Javier Milei.

In Spain, the losses on the left were amplified by the competition between Podemos and Sumar, with its roots in Sumar leader Yolanda Diaz’s ban on Podemos having portfolios in the left’s governing coalition with the Spanish Socialist Workers Party.

To achieve product differentiation from Sumar, Podemos ran a rhetorical pro-peace campaign, strongly supportive of Palestine but featuring the call for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, an end to arms deliveries and no demand for a Russian withdrawal.

This played well enough to the deep anti-war sentiment in the Spanish state (especially in Catalonia) for Podemos to hold on to two of its six seats (with 3.28%) while Sumar (in the Green group) won three seats (4.65%). The price of the split was a 2.14% fall in the vote and loss of one seat.

All considered, probably the most devastating setback came in Germany, where the Die Linke vote halved from 5.5% to 2.7% (five seats to three), while at its first outing the “red-brown” BSW scored 6.2% (six seats).

Taken as a whole and despite these losses, left forces in and outside the formal Left group survived the test of the June 9 election, with a relative strengthening of those supporting military aid to Ukraine while ending it to Israel.

Notwithstanding, the potential for differences over Ukraine to blow up the Left group still remains, as debate continues across the left everywhere as to whether Putin’s invasion is the main threat we face or not.

[Dick Nichols is Green Left’s European correspondent.]

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