European Green Party in 2023: compromised strongholds and fringe success


This article chronicles how European Green Party (EGP) members performed in the 213 national, regional and major local elections in Europe in 2023. While EGP members were voted out of government in some of their strongholds, they maintained or increased their fringe influence through arrangements with larger parties in Eastern and Southern Europe.

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The European Green Party (EGP) is the umbrella organization for environmentalist and progressive parties in Europe. Its legal status is that of a political party at the European level  (Europarty), which means that it is recognized and partially funded by the European Union to support party democracy at the supranational level. While the EGP does not directly contest elections, its members do.

The heart of electoral democracy: national parliamentary elections

National parliamentary elections matter as they often have an impact on the national government and the European Council composition.

In Bulgaria, the EGP member Zeleno dvizhenie (Green Movement, ZD) ran on the multiparty PP-DB electoral list during the snap election on 2 April, which won them – as was the case in 2022 – three out of 240 national parliamentary seats. Tourism minister Zaritsa Dinkova today represents the Greens in the national government, which was formed after the election and is led by liberal Prime Minister and European Council member Nikolay Denkov. It is the first time that ZD has held a government ministry. Similarly, the EGP member in Poland, Partia Zieloni (Green Party, PZ), defended, on 15 October, their three seats in the 460-seat lower house of the national parliament (Sejm) as part of the centrist Koalicja Obywatelska (Civic Coalition, KO) multiparty electoral alliance. They remain unrepresented in the upper house (Senat). It is expected that they will play a role in forming the next national government, potentially under KO leader Donald Tusk, who would then also represent his country in the European Council. None of the three EGP members in Spain were able to win representation on 23 July in the upper house (Senado). However, the Sumar party (Unite party, SMR), which keeps a cordial relationship with the European Greens and leads the left-environmentalist Sumar alliance, won 10 out of 350 seats in the lower house; EGP member Catalunya en Comú (Catalonia in Common, CatComú) won another five seats. CatComú member Ernest Urtansun became minister of culture in the national government formed on 21 November 2023 under Prime Minister and European Council member Pedro Sánchez. Several other ministries went to other members of the Sumar alliance.

On 11 June, the EGP member in Montenegro, Građanski pokret Ujedinjena reformska akcija (United Reform Action, URA), won, as part of the multiparty alliance Aleksa i Dritan – Hrabro se broji! (Aleksa and Dritan – Count Bravely!), 4 out of 81 seats in the unicameral parliament, more than ever since URA’s creation in 2015. However, URA decided to join the opposition benches after being part of – and for some time even leading – an unstable coalition government between 2020 and 2023.

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The EGP member in Finland, Vihreä liitto (Green League, Vihr.), on the other hand, slipped from 11.5% to 7.0%, their worst result since 1995 and the most significant decline among all parties in the 2 April election. The crash was also a major factor in the left-of-centre parties under Sanna Marin losing power and the Finnish seat in the European Council to a right-of-centre government. On 15 October 2023, voters in the autonomous region of Åland elected their parliament as well. The EGP member, the Hållbart initiativ (Sustainable Initiative, Hi), collapsed 3.2 points to only 5.1%.

Equally dramatic was the decline of Déi Gréng (The Greens) in Luxembourg, which dropped from 15.1% to 8.6% in the 8 October election. In Switzerland, the Greens dropped from 13.2% to 9.4% for the lower house and from five to three seats in the upper house.

The EGP member in the Netherlands, GroenLinks (GreenLeft, GL) withstood the Green decline in Western Europe, notably with a shared list – in this case with the centre-left Labour Party (PvdA). It is expected that GL will hold 13 seats, almost double from the seven seats they won in 2021.

In other countries, the Greens fared worse. On 5 March, the EGP member in Estonia, Erakond Eestimaa Rohelised (Party Estonian Greens, EER), declined from 1.8% to 1.0%, failing to win representation in the unicameral parliament. The EGP member in Greece, Oikologoi Prasinoi (Ecologist Greens), returned to electoral competition with a single list for the unicameral national parliament after running on SYRIZA’s list in the 2015 and 2019 elections, debuting with 0.6% in the May election and later 0.4% in the June snap elections. A multiparty alliance called Green & Purple, which was endorsed by the EGP, won 0.3% in the June election.

When speaking of electoral loss, one needs to remember the historical context of electoral success in the late 2010s. Around the time of the 2019 EU election, EGP members celebrated historic successes across the continent. However, enthusiasm waned amidst the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as the related cost of living crisis.

The EGP candidate member in Türkiye, Yeşil Sol Parti (Green Left Party, YSP), and its allies became creative in the face of an increasingly oppressive political environment to contest successfully in the 14 May national parliamentary election. A de facto shared list deal with the powerful anti-Erdoğan HDP party did not just ensure that HDP candidates, whose party is threatened with closure by the authorities, were able to continue to participate in electoral competition, but also elevated the Green’s profile. The YSP-led Emek ve Özgürlük İttifakı alliance subsequently entered the national parliament with 8.8%. Yeşil Sol Parti was renamed HEDEP after the election, providing a continued platform for the political activities of the HDP. 

Serbia is set to hold early national parliamentary elections on 17 December. The party Green–Left Front (ZLF) has submitted a membership bid for the EGP.

The EGP member in the Netherlands, GroenLinks (GreenLeft, GL) lost one seat in the indirect election of the upper house, claiming seven out of the 75 seats. In France, 170 seats of the 348-seat French upper house (Sénat) were up for election on 24 September in an indirect election. The environmentalist-progressive Groupe Écologiste – Solidarité et Territoires parliamentary group went from 12 members to 17 members, an all-time high. This included 12 (+4) deputies of the EGP member Europe Écologie les Verts (which is in the process of renaming to Les Écologistes – Europe Écologie Les Verts).

There is no European Green Party member in Andorra (2 April), Gibraltar (15 October), Monaco (5 February) and Slovakia (30 September), where (national) parliamentary elections happened as well.

Beyond the national parliaments

The EGP members did not compete with their own candidates in the presidential elections in 2023. This included the two-round vote in Czechia in January, the two-round vote in Cyprus in February, the two-round vote in Montenegro in March and April, the two-round vote in Türkiye in May, and the indirect three-round vote in Latvia in May. In San Marino, two head of state elections took place – one in March and one in September; however, the European Greens have no representation in the country. Switzerland will hold its head of state and government (Federal Council) elections on 13 December. In some of these elections, the Greens chose to endorse candidates of other parties or independents.

Regional parliamentary elections took place in Austria (Carinthia, Lower Austria and Salzburg), Greece (all regions), Germany (Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen and Hesse), Italy (Lazio and Lombardy, Molise, Trentino and South Tyrol), the Netherlands (all regions), Norway (all regions), Portugal (Madeira), Spain (Aragon, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castile-La Mancha, Extremadura, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, Navarre and Valencia) and Switzerland (Appenzell Outer-Rhodes, Basle-Country Geneva, Lucerne, Ticino and Zurich). The region of Vojvodina in Serbia is set to elect its parliament on 17 December. The diagram below shows that where single-party lists of EGP members performed more strongly in an election, they usually also suffered the largest defeats. Interestingly, when running exclusively on a single-party list, the EGP members were able to gain only in regions where they were relatively weak, showing an interesting trend of convergence between strongholds and pastures less green.

Local elections took place in a range of European capitals. These included cities where the EGP members were strong but declined in popular support (Berlin, Luxembourg City and Oslo).

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In the United Kingdom, in a series of historic defeats for the governing Conservative Party, the Greens were not able to win any seats, despite running in all by-elections, but they mostly increased their performance. The Greens in France, Georgia and Italy did not present their own candidates in national parliamentary by-elections. The European Greens do not have representation in Lithuania and hence were not able to run in this year’s by-election.

Regional parliamentary and national parliamentary by-elections in Russia on 10 September were fraudulent. Opposition parties, like EGP member Zelenaya Rossia, had no realistic chance to fairly compete in elections. Elections in Ukraine were postponed due to Russia’s invasion of the country.

Sections of this article were reviewed by Europe Elects country experts: Jakub Rogowiecki (Poland), Matías Pino (Spain), Mihail Murgashanski (Montenegro, Serbia), Julius Lehtinen (Finland, Åland), Roman Broszkowski (Luxembourg), Gert Armand Valgerist (Estonia), Polychronis Karampalas (Greece), Emre Türker (Türkiye), Matthias Troude (France), Linus Folke Jensen (Latvia), Jan Jakob Langer (Germany), Harry Hayfield (United Kingdom) and Tidjani Saleh (Andorra).

The views and opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union.