The March of the Far-Right


The European Parliament has shifted to the right. Far-right parties in the European Union won significant gains in parliamentary seats. Giorgia Meloni, the Italian Premier, more than doubled her party’s seats in the assembly. Germany’s extreme right party swept past Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats. Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, who called snap legislative elections, faced a humiliating defeat.

Sensing a threat from the far-right, the Christian Democrats shifted further to the right on migration and climate ahead of the elections—and were rewarded by remaining by far the biggest group in the 720-seat European Parliament and de facto brokers of the ever-expanding powers of the legislature.

The surge in populist parties across Europe will make it harder for the assembly to approve climate change and agriculture policy legislation for the next five years.

Marine Le Pen emerged as the star of the night. The National Rally party dominated the French polls to such an extent that Macron immediately dissolved the national parliament and called for new elections to start later this month. It’s a political risk since his party could suffer more losses, hobbling the rest of his presidential term that ends in 2027.

Le Pen, who seemed delighted to accept the challenge, said, ‘We’re ready to turn the country around, ready to defend the interests of the French, ready to put an end to mass immigration,’ echoing far-right leaders in other countries, who were celebrating substantial wins.

In Germany, the EU’s most populous nation, projections indicated that the AfD’s scandals had not dissuaded voters. Its vote share increased from 11% in 2019 to 16.5%. In comparison, the combined result for the three parties in the German governing coalition barely topped 30 per cent.

Across the EU, two mainstream and pro-European groups—the Christian Democrats and the Socialists—remained dominant. The gains of the far-right came at the expense of the Greens, who were expected to lose about 20 seats and fall back to sixth position in the legislature. Macron’s pro-business Renew group also lost significantly.

After considering the idea of working with a political group further right, Ursula von der Leyen offered to build a coalition with the Social Democrats, which mostly held its ground in the elections, and the pro-business Liberals.

‘The Christian Democrats have 189 seats, up 13; the Social Democrats 135, down 4; the pro-business Renew group 83, down 19; The Greens slumped to 53, down 18.

Germany, a traditional stronghold for environmentalists, exemplified the humbling of the Greens, who were predicted to fall from 20% to 12%. With further losses expected in France and elsewhere, the Greens’ defeat could impact the EU’s climate change policies, which are the most progressive globally.

Populist far-right parties now lead governments in three nations—Hungary, Slovakia and Italy—and are part of ruling coalitions in others, including Sweden and Finland.

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Vol 57, No. 1, Jun 30 - Jul 6, 2024