The European Parliament election on June 6-9 saw overall gains for right-of-center parties without a feared surge toward the far right. Across individual EU member states, however, the degree to which voters turned to the right was uneven. GMF’s Europe-based experts offer below their analyses of the results in select countries.

While the predominant narrative around the European Parliament (EP) election has been of an overall dwindling political center cornered by sweeping gains from the fringes, Spain’s results point in a different direction. In the EU’s fourth-largest economy, not only did the center hold, but it has been strengthened. Spain is now the only EU member state whose two largest political formations in the EP are pro-European. 

Echoing trends elsewhere in the EU, in Spain the center-right People’s Party (PP) made the most significant gains. Yet the big bang ouster of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’ government that PP leaders had been hoping for did not materialize. Despite significant recent political controversy over Sanchez’ domestic performance, the prime minister’s social-democrat PSOE was able to stand its ground, leaving Sanchez newly emboldened. 

At the political fringes, the sweeping gains for extreme right parties seen in other EU countries have not materialized in Spain, in part due to fragmentation. Although far-right VOX gained two seats compared to the 2019 EU elections, they lost ground compared to the 2023 Spanish general elections. The split of the right-wing vote may have contributed, as it involved the emergence of a new party, Se acabó la fiesta (The Party Is Over), which debuted in the EP with three seats. On the left, the recent fragmentation of the party landscape split the vote between Podemos and the new formation, Sumar. The latter’s breakdown (one-third of its result from the 2023 general election) led Yolanda Diaz to step down as the party’s leader while remaining in government, casting doubts on the stability of Sanchez’ already shaky governing coalition. 

While the Spanish centrists’ apparently firm grip is good news for Europe, it remains unclear which parties they will consider as allies. The PSOE has drawn a red line against coalitions with the extreme right and propagated a pro-democratic, pro-European alliance, but the Popular Party (PP) has failed to draw any such line at either the national or the European level. PP leader Feijoo has signaled his openness to cooperating with Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia while showing reluctance to apply the extreme-right label to her party. Under present majority arithmetic, the influence of extreme-right parties in the EP will depend on the degree to which center-right mainstream parties empower them by using their votes, thereby midwifing their transition into the political mainstream in a high-risk legislature that will set the course of the future of the European project. Spanish voters have given their centrist parties the mandate to defend this project.